Macron Claimed Northern Ireland Is Not in UK Amid Brexit Clash: Report

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson poses with France's President Emmanuel Macron (R) at the start of the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, south-west England on June 11, 2021. - G7 leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the United States meet this weekend for the first …
LEON NEAL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

French president Emmanuel Macron reportedly mistakenly informed Prime Minister Boris Johnson that Northern Ireland is not part of the United Kingdom at a G7 meeting.

During talks on the ongoing Brexit battle over trade regulations between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, Mr Johnson reportedly told the French leader: “How would you like it if the French courts stopped you moving Toulouse sausages to Paris?”

President Macron is alleged to have shot back that it was “not a good comparison because Paris and Toulouse are part of the same country,” a British government source told The Times.

Mr Johnson is said to have angrily retorted: “Northern Ireland and Britain are part of the same country as well.”

Following the meeting, the Prime Minister said that leaders in Europe “seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory. I just need to get that into their heads.”

Responding to the reports of the diplomatic blunder, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News’ Trevor Philips that out of courtesy he would not “spill the beans” on the veracity of the claims about Macron.

However, Raab did say: “No one should be surprised by these reports and it’s not just one figure, we have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it was somehow a different country from the UK.”

The Foreign Secretary said that it is “offensive” and carries with it “real-world effects on the communities of Northern Ireland”.

“We need a bit of respect here and also frankly and appreciation of the situation for all communities in Northern Ireland” he added.

The United Kingdom and the European Union have been at odds over the issue of internal border controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK following Britain’s break from European Union jurisdiction at the beginning of the year.

The EU has insisted that if there are not bureaucratic restrictions on the movement of goods, particularly food, then they would impose a hard border between Northern Ireland, commonly known as Ulster, and the rest of the island of Ireland.

Britain, for its part, has warned that the Northern Ireland Protocol as enforced would threaten the very integrity of the United Kingdom.

Despite promises from Mr Johnson that EU checks would not take place, the Brexit deal has resulted in some internal border controls and checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, causing delays and shortages for the residents.

Undeterred by the shortages faced during the pandemic, the EU has refused to extend the post-Brexit “grace period” in which border controls would not be fully imposed.

Mr Johnson has unilaterally extended the grace period for some goods, prompting threats from the bloc to launch legal action against the British and to impose sanctions. Last week, the British government reportedly moved to include the customs-free regime for sausages and other chilled meats.

On Friday, Johnson reportedly informed his European counterparts that he “will not hesitate” to suspend the protocol in order to keep food flowing next month when restrictions on meats are set to be enacted.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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