The UK accuses France of “offensive” remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK.
Growing tensions between Britain and the European Union threatened to overshadow the conclusion of the G7 summit on Sunday, with London accusing France of “offensive” remarks that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK .
Since the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, the two sides have been trying to find a way to handle post-Brexit trade and the UK province, which has a land border with Ireland, member of the EU.
Ultimately, talks continue to revisit the delicate patchwork of history, nationalism, religion and geography intertwined in Northern Ireland, but the latest feud over the Brexit divorce deal centers on the sausages.
Both sides accused the other of sowing discord at the G7 summit.
Brussels is angry at London’s refusal to apply checks on goods entering Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales.
Talks collapsed earlier this week and the EU threatens retaliation if Britain unilaterally extends a grace period for trade in chilled meat, including sausages, next month.
The issue was raised again when Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on the sidelines of the G7 summit on Saturday.
Johnson asked the French leader to imagine if Toulouse sausages were banned for sale in Paris, which left Macron “astonished,” according to a source in the president’s office.
“He … told him that Toulouse is part of the same territory, which is not the case of Northern Ireland” because it is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea, specified the source.
“These are different geographic configurations and we compare things that are absolutely not comparable. “
British media reported that Macron responded by wrongly saying that Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom, remarks British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as “offensive”.
Johnson was furious, according to the Sunday Times. “Northern Ireland and Great Britain are part of the same country,” he reportedly told Macron.
The grueling bilateral exchange explains Johnson’s comments on Saturday that “some of our friends… seem to misunderstand that the UK is one country and one territory.
“I think they just need to get that into their heads,” he told Sky News, threatening to put Brexit trade deals on hold if the situation is not resolved.
Macron appealed for calm from all sides during his end-of-summit press conference on Sunday. “We’re not going to argue about this every day,” he said.
“France has never questioned British sovereignty, the integrity of British territory and respect for this sovereignty,” he added.
Johnson also played down the row in his closing remarks, though he reaffirmed his pledge to do “whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK” and said he has repeatedly told EU leaders that the UK was “indivisible”.