A bitter row has erupted between the UK and European Union (EU) leaders after the French President, Emmanuel Macron, said at the G7 summit that Northern Ireland is “not part of the UK”.
At a press conference earlier today (June 13), Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, fired back by saying Northern Ireland is part of “one great indivisible United Kingdom”.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Macron’s remark was “offensive” before complaining about EU leaders’ characterization of Northern Ireland “as somehow a separate country”.
For his part, President Macron appealed for “clam”, saying: "France has never allowed itself to question British sovereignty, the integrity of the British territory and the respect of the sovereignty”.
"And it's also true that Brexi is the child of British sovereignty and has [created] thousands of hours of work for European leaders so we know very well what British sovereignty is", the French President added.
Macron concluded by saying: "For a number of years after Brexit we established rules, a protocol agreement and also a commercial treaty for future relations. We just want them to be respected - seriously, calmly, professionally - that's all".
The row has overshadowed the G7 summit in Cornwall (south-west England), which was expected to focus on important global issues, notably climate change.
It has also erupted amid an intensifying dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is an integral feature of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The protocol – which is essentially designed to prevent the emergence of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and the British-controlled territory in the north of Ireland – allowed for short “grace periods” to help people adjust to the new trading arrangements.
However, as it stands border controls will be introduced from July on chilled meat products like sausages and mince - effectively banning them from entering Northern Ireland unless the British government agrees to match EU standards on its products.
The UK has raised eyebrows – particularly in the Republic of Ireland – by unilaterally extending some grace periods, prompting legal action from EU bodies.
But Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin warned it would be "very problematic" if the UK did the same again, telling Sky News it would strain both bilateral relations, as well as UK-EU relations.
The Taoiseach said: "It's not about sausages per se, it really is about the fact that an agreement [Northern Ireland Protocol] had been entered into not too long ago and if there's consistent, unilateral deviation from that agreement, that clearly undermines the broader relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, which is in nobody's interest".