The French President was accused of claiming Northern Ireland is a separate country to the United Kingdom in a tense bilateral meeting with Boris Johnson yesterday morning, leaving the Prime Minister astounded. Despite protestations from the UK Government, Paris has today reiterated its remarks.
Frictions over the Northern Ireland Protocol have ramped up tensions between the UK and EU in recent days.
Mr Johnson has warned customs checks on goods introduced on goods travelling to Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea effectively places a border throughout the United Kingdom.
A UK source says the Prime Minister tried to explain the issues by asking Mr Macron to imagine checks on goods travelling from Toulouse to Paris.
The French President is said to have responded by saying the issue was different as Toulouse and Paris were one country.
Mr Johnson was left shocked and staggered at the ignorance, raging to the media afterwards “the UK is a single country and a single territory” and the EU “just need to get that into their heads”.
Hitting back at the remarks this morning, a French diplomatic source said: “I’m certain the Prime Minister knows that Northern Ireland is not part of Great Britain.”
While Great Britain refers to the mainland of England, Scotland, and Wales, the United Kingdom refers to the mainland plus Northern Ireland as one single country and economic area.
“The president said that Toulouse and Paris were part of a single geographic area and that Northern Ireland was on an island,” the Elysee Palace added.
“The president wants to highlight that the situation was quite different and that it wasn’t right to draw this kind of comparison.”
Blaming the UK for the issues in trade between Britain and Northern Ireland, the source said Mr Macron claimed disruption to trade was a consequence of Brexit.
“He reminded the Prime minister that the UK’s exit from the EU was a British decision and that it was necessary to stick to the word given,” they said.
“The President then steered the conversation back to the key issues of the G7.”
The Paris source’s comments are the latest in the vicious briefing war to break out following the crunch Brexit talks yesterday morning.
As well as Mr Macron, the Prime Minister also held separate talks with Germany’s Angela Merkel, and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.
Both the UK and EU have engaged in hostile media attacks since the end of the bilateral meetings.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab this morning demanded “respect” from the EU as he accused the bloc of being “offensive” by refusing to treat Northern Ireland in the same way as the rest of the UK.
“What we cannot have is the continuing disruption of trade and effectively try to change the status of Northern Ireland, contrary to the consent and wishes of the people, which is not just contrary to the Northern Ireland Protocol but also to the Belfast Agreement,” Mr Raab told Sky News.
“We have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it was some kind of different country to the UK.
“It is not only offensive, it has real world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, great consternation.
“Could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, one of the lander in Germany, northern Italy, Corsica in France as different countries? We need a bit of respect here.”
More to follow…
Published at Sun, 13 Jun 2021 10:23:00 +0000