United Kingdom

Boris Johnson tries to calm tensions over Brexit sausage war

The French President angered Boris Johnson during a tense standoff yesterday after he suggested Northern Ireland was not a full part of the UK amid an ongoing dispute over post-Brexit trade checks. 

Mr Raab this morning accused the EU of taking a 'very lopsided, purist approach' to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol which has disrupted trade and inflamed community tensions. 

The Foreign Secretary claimed that one in five of all EU checks are currently carried out in Northern Ireland as he urged Brussels to show 'respect' for the integrity of the UK. 

He called for tensions to be cooled but risked worsening the row as he accused the EU of 'effectively trying to change the status of Northern Ireland contrary to the wishes or the consent of the people'.  

The current dispute centres on the EU's insistence on barring chilled meats from crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain. 

That has pushed Mr Johnson to the brink of suspending the Protocol – a key plank of the UK's post-Brexit trading relations with the bloc – to stop the ban kicking in when the 'grace' period ends in a fortnight.

During their encounter yesterday morning at the G7 summit in Cornwall, Mr Johnson asked Mr Macron: 'How would you like it if the French courts stopped you moving Toulouse sausages to Paris?' 

Mr Macron replied that he did not think it was a good comparison because Paris and Toulouse were both part of the same country – to which an irritated Mr Johnson said: 'Northern Ireland and Britain are part of the same country as well.'

Boris Johnson today claimed there is a 'fantastic degree of harmony' between the UK and EU leaders amid an ongoing row over trade checks in Northern Ireland

The French President angered Mr Johnson during a tense standoff yesterday after he suggested Northern Ireland was not a full part of the UK amid an ongoing dispute over post-Brexit trade checks

Banger PM threw into the feud

The variety of sausage that Boris Johnson mentioned in his clash with President Macron – the saucisse de Toulouse – is one of south-west France’s best-known culinary specialities. 

It is made from coarsely minced pork with salt and pepper being the only other traditional ingredients – though some versions also feature garlic, nutmeg or red wine. 

The original recipe dates back to the 18th Century. Perhaps its most common use is in cassoulet, the rustic French stew made with white beans and duck legs. 

The traditional Toulouse sausage is minced by hand rather than ground, which gives it a distinct coarse texture. It differs from popular English recipes, such as the Cumberland sausage, because of the minimal number of ingredients. 

Cumberland sausage gets its flavour from various spices, including white and black pepper, sage, thyme and cayenne. Both the Cumberland and the Toulouse varieties are produced in a long string and often presented in a coiled shape.

The variety of sausage that Boris Johnson mentioned in his clash with President Macron – the saucisse de Toulouse – is one of south-west France’s best-known culinary specialities

Mr Raab told Sky News that Mr Johnson had been 'very calm but also firm' with the EU over the issue. 

He said: 'We have seen a very lopsided approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol which is supposed to protect all communities in Northern Ireland, not just the EU equities but also under article six… the free flow of trade and goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

'That hasn't happened. Fully one in five of all of the EU checks and controls to protect its border from central and eastern Europe, through around to the south of the continent up to Northern Ireland, one in five takes place in Northern Ireland.

'That cannot be right. What we want is a more proportionate, flexible approach.'

Asked why the UK had signed up to the Protocol given the problems it has caused, Mr Raab said: 'Of course the Northern Ireland Protocol is a package. It has got bits to protect the EU equities, it has got bits to protect the free flow of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland… the problem is the Commission are insisting on a very lopsided, purist approach.'

He said: 'What we need is both the letter and the spirit to be respected. We have come up with proposals, we have given them to the commission.

'What we cannot have is the continuing disruption of trade and effectively trying to change the status of Northern Ireland contrary to the wishes or the consent of the people which is not just contrary to the Northern Ireland Protocol but also the Belfast Agreement.'

'What I can tell you is no one should be surprised by these reports and it is not just one figure.

'We have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it were somehow a different country to the UK.

'That is not only offensive, it has real world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland.'

He continued: 'Could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium… as different countries?

'We need a bit of respect here and also frankly an appreciation of the situation for all communities in Northern Ireland.' 

He added: 'We would love to see this issue settled because for us the key issue, amidst some of the ignorant comments that have been made about Northern Ireland, for us what really matters is the businesses from all communities, the livelihoods, the sense of consternation and anxiety in communities on all sides in the Northern Ireland and we need to give them that reassurance.'

But he also insisted a breakthrough between the EU and UK was still possible 'if there's a will there on both sides'.

The Northern Ireland Protocol was agreed as part of the Brexit divorce deal and was designed to avoid a land border on the island, with checks on goods effectively being conducted in the Irish Sea.  

After the clash with Mr Macron, Mr Johnson announced that the EU should 'get it into their heads' that the province was part of the UK, and declared that he did not think that the EU's insistence on checks – which has also affected the supply of vital pharmaceuticals to Northern Ireland – was 'sensible or pragmatic'.

He said: 'I think that the protocol can work if it is sensibly applied. It's not just a question of chilled meats or sausages, there are all kinds of impediments being constructed, and we need to sort it out. It is up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes.

'I've talked to some of our friends here today, who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory. I just need to get that into their heads.'

The impasse means that the UK is on the brink of invoking Article 16 of the protocol, which allows the EU or UK to unilaterally suspend aspects of its operations if either side considers that aspect to be causing 'economic, societal or environmental difficulties'.

Mr Johnson, who also held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, said: 'I think if the protocol continues to be applied in this way, then we will obviously not hesitate to invoke Article 16.' 

French diplomats said that Mr Macron would veto any fundamental renegotiation of the protocol as 'not serious'. 

Mr Johnson met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel at the G7 yesterday

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin said it would be 'very problematic' if the UK again unilaterally extends the grace period for Northern Ireland Protocol checks. He ispictured with Michael Gove in Enniskillen on June 11 

An EU source said: 'We have moved on in Europe. The [sausage row] is not something that the people of Europe care about.' 

A UK Government source hit back: 'It doesn't matter to us whether the people of Europe care about this issue – we care. We want a negotiated solution but time is running out.'

Number 10 has rejected an EU 'compromise' proposal for Britain to accept ongoing alignment with Brussels rules on the grounds it would make it impossible to strike ambitious trade deals. 

A source said: 'That is not going to happen. Boris resigned from Theresa May's Government over a refusal to follow EU rules. The EU is trying to reinstate the backstop.'

European leaders have warned that unilateral action to suspend the protocol would lead to retaliatory measures, including tariffs.

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