Britain is accusing EU leaders of taking an “aggressive” view that Northern Ireland is not fully part of the United Kingdom
Britain and the European Union are in a dispute over a post-Brexit trade arrangement that could ban British sausages from entering Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that borders the 27-nation bloc. The dispute is fueling political tensions in Northern Ireland, where some people identify as British and some as Irish.
British media reported that Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked French President Emmanuel Macron how he would feel if the sausages could not be transported from Toulouse to Paris when they met on Saturday at the English seaside resort of Corbys Bay. He said Macron replied that the comparison did not work because Paris and Toulouse were part of the same country.
The French president did not deny that Macron had made the remarks. It said it was explaining “that Toulouse and Paris were on the geographical unity of the region, Northern Ireland being on an island. The President wanted to emphasize that the situation is quite different and that such comparisons are not fair.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the idea that Northern Ireland was not an integral part of Britain was “not only offensive, it has real world effects on communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, great panic.”
“Can you imagine if we talk about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, northern Italy, Corsican France, as separate countries?” he said on Sky News. “We need a little respect here. And also, frankly, an appreciation of the situation for all communities in Northern Ireland.”
Relations between the UK and the EU have soured since Britain took its final break from the bloc in late 2020, more than four years after voting to leave.
The EU is angered by the British government’s delay in implementing new checks on some goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, as agreed in the Brexit divorce deal. The bloc is threatening legal action if the UK does not bring a full-fledged check, with restrictions on cold meat such as sausage from England, Scotland and Wales moving to Northern Ireland starting next month.
The UK accuses the EU of adopting a “purist” approach to regulations, leading to cumbersome red tape for businesses. Johnson has said that if a solution is not found he may pull an emergency brake allowing both sides to suspend parts of their agreement. It is only for use in extreme situations, but the European Union threatened to implement it briefly in January to prevent cross-border vaccine doses from Ireland.
The new arrangement, designed to keep an open border between Ireland and its northern neighbor, has angered Northern Ireland’s British federalists, who say they undermine relations with the rest of Britain. Contributed to a week of street violence in April. , mainly in the unionist areas of Northern Ireland, where youth pelted stones at police with bricks, fireworks and fire bombs.