Boris Johnson's warning to EU: 'I will not hesitate to take unilateral measures over Northern Ireland'
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and French President Emmanuel Macron before a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit in Cornwall - PA
Boris Johnson has warned Brussels that he will not hesitate to take unilateral action to protect Northern Ireland's position in the increasingly bitter dispute over post-Brexit trade deals.
The Prime Minister met key EU actors on the sidelines of the G7 summit when the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol threatened to overshadow the direction of the international meeting.
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While Downing Street described the discussions as "constructive", Mr Johnson complained that some of the leaders failed to understand that Britain was a single country.
"I just have to get this into their heads," he said.
He warned against invoking Article 16 of the Protocol, which allows both sides to take unilateral action if its implementation would lead to "serious economic, social or environmental difficulties".
His comments followed a series of discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Chairman of the European Council, Charles Michel.
The Prime Minister told Sky News: “I think we can sort this out, but… it is up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes.
“I think that if the Protocol continues to be applied in this way we will of course not hesitate to invoke Article 16, as I said earlier.
“Don't forget that in January the EU itself invoked Article 16 to reject the protocol in order to stop the removal of vaccines from the EU to the UK.
"I spoke to some of our friends here today who seem to misunderstand that Britain is one country, one territory. I just have to get that into their heads."
His comments came after Emmanuel Macron had previously offered to restore ties with Britain, but only if Mr Johnson "keeps his word" on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The French President's message was delivered after personal meetings with the Prime Minister at the G7 summit in Cornwall on Saturday. However, Number 10 issued its own disguised warning after the meeting, suggesting Britain is ready to unilaterally forego elements of the deal if changes are not made.
The Northern Ireland Protocol provides for customs controls on goods transported from the UK to Northern Ireland in order to bypass land border barriers on the island of Ireland.
Britain threatens to refuse controls on sausages and other chilled meat imported into Northern Ireland unless the deal is changed.
But EU leaders, a number of whom Mr Johnson met on Saturday morning, are warning the UK against breaking any element of the pre-Brexit deal signed in December.
A source close to Mr. Macron said: “The President told Boris Johnson that Franco-British relations must be readjusted. That can happen, provided he keeps his word to Europeans. ”A spokesman for Downing Street said of the meeting:
“The Prime Minister expressed his confidence in the UK's position in the Northern Ireland Protocol. "He made his desire for pragmatism and compromise on all sides clear, but emphasized that the protection of the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday) in all its dimensions is of the greatest importance."
Boris Johnson goes swimming before his morning G7 meetings start on Saturday
At a press conference, a Downing Street official hinted that the UK government would remain ready to unilaterally postpone controls on sausage imports.
The prime minister's official spokesman said: “The prime minister's focus is on working within the protocol. That is our approach at the moment, but we keep all options on the table. "
On the main summit agenda, the leaders of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy will commit to a new plan designed to prevent the Covid-19 pandemic from recurring.
Downing Street has announced that the UK would be ready to unilaterally postpone full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent a ban on the crossing of chilled meats across the Irish Sea from the UK.
Restrictions on imports of chilled meat from British production into Northern Ireland are due to come into effect at the end of the month.
Delaying controls without a Brussels agreement risks a trade dispute in the "sausage war" in which the EU threatens to react to any violation of the agreement signed by the Prime Minister.
Mr Johnson has suggested that the EU take an "overly onerous" approach to the post-Brexit trade arrangements for Northern Ireland.
Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4 Today: "You can be more pragmatic in implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol in a win-win way, or you can be bloodthirsty and purist, in which case I'm afraid." We will not allow that the integrity of the UK is being threatened. "
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and French President Emmanuel Macron - PA
The protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European single market to avoid a hard border with Ireland that creates a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods to cross from the UK.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters in Cornwall that the immediate priority was "finding radical and urgent solutions within the protocol".
But "we keep all options on the table," he added, pointing out the possibility of unilaterally extending a grace period so that sausages can continue to be shipped across the Irish Sea.
Downing Street downplayed expectations that Mr Johnson would find a solution to the impasse at the Carbis Bay summit.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the G7 meeting was "not the forum where he is keen to find an immediate solution".
At a press conference in the run-up to the G7 summit, Ms. von der Leyen insisted that the protocol was the "only solution" to prevent a hard border with the republic and that it had to be fully implemented.
Macron also warned that the Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated.
The main concern of the summit will be for leaders to discuss building resilience to future crises, reflect on foreign policy, and then decide on their response to Covid-19.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) and Chancellor Angela Merkel before a bilateral meeting during the G7 summit - Stefan Rousseau / PA
The G7 leaders will commit to a new plan - the Carbis Bay Declaration - to tackle future pandemics within the first 100 days.
The UK will also set up a new animal vaccination center to prevent future diseases from being transmitted from living things to humans.
As part of Mr Johnson's "Global Britain" agenda, the leaders of South Korea, India, Australia and South Africa will also attend the summits and extend the G7 to other prominent democracies.
At the end of the day, those in charge of the event - the Indian Narendra Modi will only participate remotely due to the coronavirus crisis in his country - will relax on the beach with a barbecue prepared by Simon Stallard, chef at Hidden Hut in Portscatho becomes.
You'll be served with beef tenderloin and lobster, then enjoy hot butter rum and toasted marshmallows around fire pits on the beach.
The singing song group Du Hag Owr will provide musical accompaniment to the event.
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