Britain calls on EU view on Northern Ireland offensive in Brexit spat
By JILL LAWLESS
FALMOUTH, England (AP) – Britain on Sunday accused European Union leaders of having the “offensive” view that Northern Ireland is not fully part of the UK, while the Brexit casts a shadow over the top of the Group of Seven.
Britain and the EU are fighting over post-Brexit trade deals that could ban British sausages from entering Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that borders the 27-nation bloc. The dispute raises political tensions in Northern Ireland, where some people identify as British and others as Irish.
British media reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked French President Emmanuel Macron when they met in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on Saturday what he would feel if the Toulouse sausages could not be transferred to Paris. They said Macron replied that the comparison was not working because Paris and Toulouse were part of the same country.
The French presidency has not denied that Macron made the comments. He said he explained “that Toulouse and Paris were on a geographical unit of territory, Northern Ireland is on an island. The president insisted that the situation was quite different and that he was not appropriate to make that kind of comparison “.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the idea that Northern Ireland was not an integral part of the UK was “not only offensive, it has real effects on communities in Northern Ireland , creates great concern, great consternation “.
“Can you imagine if we were talking about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, northern Italy, Corsican France, like different countries? he told Sky News. “We need a little respect here. And also, frankly, an appreciation of the situation for all the communities in Northern Ireland.”
Relations between Britain and the EU have deteriorated since the UK finally broke with the bloc at the end of 2020, more than four years after voting to leave.
The EU is angry at the UK government’s delay in implementing new controls on certain goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, as agreed in the Brexit divorce deal . The bloc threatens legal action if the UK does not fully carry out the checks, which include a ban on chilled meats such as sausages from England, Scotland and Wales going to Northern Ireland from the next month.
Britain accuses the EU of adopting a “purist” approach to the rules, causing red tape for businesses. Johnson said if no solution is found he could pull an emergency brake allowing both sides to put parts of their deal on hold. It is intended to be used only in extreme situations, but the EU briefly threatened to invoke it in January to prevent doses of vaccine from Ireland from crossing the border.
US President Joe Biden has even been drawn into the feud, raising concerns about the potential threat to the Northern Ireland peace deal.
The new arrangements, designed to keep an open border between Ireland and its northern neighbor, angered British trade unionists in Northern Ireland, who say they are weakening ties with the rest of the UK Tensions linked to the new trade rules contributed to a week of street violence in April, mainly in Unionist regions of Northern Ireland, where young people bombarded police with bricks, fireworks and incendiary bombs.