Emmanuel Macron has hit back the UK as a dispute over sausages escalated into a full-blown diplomatic row.
The French President called for “professionalism” after British sources briefed Sunday newspapers that he’d suggested Northern Ireland – where British sausages could soon be banned – was not part of the UK.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today branded the remarks “offensive” and said: “We need a bit of respect here.”
But President Macron said the UK should simply follow its own trading rules for Northern Ireland – which Boris Johnson himself agreed to as part of his 2019 Brexit deal.
“We just want them to be respected – seriously, calmly, professionally. That’s all,” Mr Macron told a press conference at the G7 summit.
“My wish is that we succeed collectively in putting into action what we signed several months ago.”
After the leaked claims, President Macron said “we need to stay very calm” and with “mutual respect” adding: “Let’s not lose time in disagreements which are often created in corridors or antechambers.”
Boris Johnson today refused to comment on the leaked claims about his meeting with President Macron.
Despite the row, Mr Johnson insisted the topic of Brexit “occupied a vestigial, vanishingly small proportion of our deliberations” at the G7.
But he said pointedly: “Of course we make the point continuously that we’re all part of one great, indivisible United Kingdom.”
A ‘sausage war’ has broken out between Boris Johnson and EU leaders after Brussels refused to budge on trading rules that he himself agreed as part of his Brexit deal.
Under the PM’s 2019 Northern Ireland Protocol, many British goods crossing the Irish Sea west to Northern Ireland must undergo EU checks or fulfil EU rules.
This was designed to avoid a damaging “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
But it has instead created a border in the Irish Sea, leading to Loyalist anger and threats against port staff.
And EU rules therefore say there will be a total ban on British “chilled meat preparations”, including sausages, travelling to Northern Ireland once a six-month grace period expires on June 30.
Boris Johnson has already threatened to extend the grace period on sausages without the EU’s permission.
And yesterday the PM warned he “will obviously not hesitate” Article 16 of the Protocol – the “nuclear option” that allows either side to override it.
Tensions worsened after the reported comments by French President Emmanuel Macron. According to briefings to several right-leaning newspapers, Mr Johnson asked Mr Macron at the G7 summit: “How would you like it if the French courts stopped you moving Toulouse sausages to Paris?”
But Mr Macron allegedly said it was a bad comparison – because Paris and Toulouse are part of the same country.
“Northern Ireland and Britain are part of the same country as well,” an irritated Boris Johnson is said to have replied.
A French diplomatic source said Macron had been taken aback by Johnson bringing up sausages – which the French regarded as a distraction.
The French president had merely been pointing out the sausage comparison was invalid due to the geographic differences, the source said.
“It took four years to negotiate this deal,” the source said.
“It cannot be said the United Kingdom didn’t know what it was signing for. It’s either not very professional or a distraction from the real issues.”
President Macron hit back today: “France has never allowed itself to question British sovereignty, the integrity of British territory.
“It’s also true that Brexit is the child of this British sovereignty and has [taken] thousands of hours of work for European leaders.
“So we know very well what British sovereignty is… we are respectful.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refused to “spill the beans” on whether Mr Macron did make the comments – but pointedly failed to deny he did.
“Various EU figures here in Carbis Bay, but frankly for months now and years, have characterised Northern Ireland as somehow a separate country and that is wrong,” he fumed.
“It is a failure to understand the facts. We wouldn’t talk about Catalonia and Barcelona, or Corsica in France in those ways.”