Emmanuel Macron, French President, has warned Boris Johnson that efforts to restore relations between Paris and London will fail unless the British Prime Minister keeps his word on the Brexit deal in Northern Ireland.
During a breakfast on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Macron made it clear that he expected Johnson to honor the Brexit deal reached with the EU last December.
The EU has threatened to punish Britain – including by imposing trade sanctions – if Johnson unilaterally breaks commitments on border controls made in the Northern Ireland Protocol, as part of his Brexit deal .
Macron is seen by Downing Street as the EU’s most uncompromising national leader on the issue. Arguments between French presidents and British prime ministers at world summits are common – and often play out well at the national level.
But Macron’s warning underscored the seriousness with which the EU views the growing crisis in Northern Ireland.
Joe Biden, President of the United States, expressed deep concern about the future of the peace process.
During an English breakfast, an Elysee source said Macron told Johnson he was ready to restore relations with London and that Britain and France have many common interests.
“The president however strongly underlined that this re-engagement obliges the British to honor the promises made to the Europeans and to respect the agreement on the Brexit”, declared the source of the Elysee.
The protocol obliges Britain to control certain goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to prevent them from passing unchecked across the open border to Ireland, an EU member, and in the single market.
The introduction of an effective trade border on British territory infuriated pro-British trade unionists in Northern Ireland and heightened tensions in the region.
Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet that the Good Friday deal and peace on the island of Ireland are paramount.
“We negotiated a protocol that preserves this, signed and ratified by the UK and the EU,” she said. “We want the best possible relationship with the UK. Both parties must implement what we have agreed upon. There is complete European unity on this. “
Johnson argues that the EU is uncompromising in the way it applies the protocol and that a clash is approaching later this month over the issue of checks on chilled meat products across the Irish Sea.
The EU bans imports of chilled meat, including sausages and ground beef. A “grace period” to allow the continued sale of UK chilled meat products in NI expires at the end of June.
Johnson reserved the right to unilaterally ignore the ban, which the EU believes could trigger retaliation under the terms of the EU / UK Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic confirmed last week that this could include trade sanctions, raising fears of a trade war or – in tabloid headlines – a “sausage war”.
Johnson also met on Saturday morning with Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, and European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.