UK appeals for 'respect' from EU over Northern Ireland

'Senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it were somehow a different country from UK,' says foreign secretary

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal   | 13.06.2021
UK appeals for 'respect' from EU over Northern Ireland


Britain on Sunday appealed for respect from EU leaders, saying that they are speaking about Northern Ireland as if it were not part of the UK.

“We have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it were somehow a different country from the UK,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, speaking to SkyNews.

“That is not only offensive, it has real world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland – it creates great concern, great consternation.”

Raab’s remarks came on the closing day of a G7 summit in Cornwall, England and after French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly said during the meeting that Northern Ireland was not part of the UK.

The diplomatic spat between the UK and the EU continued on the sidelines of the summit over the issue of border checks on goods received by Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Macron reportedly was responding to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was questioning how he would feel if sausages from Toulouse could not be transported to Paris.

An Elysee source speaking to the BBC said Macron was talking about "geographical territory."

"President Macron said that Toulouse and Paris are on the same geographical territory, Northern Ireland is on an island,” the source was quoted as saying.

"The president wanted to stress that the situation was quite different and that it was not appropriate to make this kind of comparison."

“Could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, one of the Lander in Germany, northern Italy, or (the island of) Corsica in France as different countries?” Raab asked.

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

Raab underlined that the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol – reached last December – had been "very lopsided" and had had "real life effects" on people in Northern Ireland.

"What we cannot have is the continuing disruption of trade and effectively try to change the status of Northern Ireland, contrary to the consent and wishes of the people, which is not just contrary to the Northern Ireland Protocol but also to the Belfast Agreement," he added, referring the landmark 1998 Northern Ireland peace deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Saturday urged the EU towards “pragmatism and compromise” on the ongoing problems with the Northern Ireland protocol.

Meeting at the summit with EU leaders Ursula Von der Leyen and Charles Michel, as well as the French president and the German chancellor, Johnson said he was looking for “urgent and innovative solutions” to the problems of the protocol.

A statement from the Elysee Palace said Emmanuel Macron warned Johnson that the British government must “honor their word” over the Brexit deal.

In his meeting with Merkel, Johnson “underlined the UK’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol and the need to maintain both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UK."

Latest spat

The latest war of words between Britain and the EU started last week over ongoing uncertainties on the Brexit regulations related to Northern Ireland.

The spat came after David Frost, the UK’s Brexit minister, urged EU officials to show “common sense” and compromise on checks over goods transported to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK – a requisite under the Northern Ireland Protocol signed last December by both parties.

European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic threatened to retaliate with a ban on selling some products in Northern Ireland.

The protocol necessitates border checks on any animal and plant-based products, including frozen meet and processed meat products, before their transport to Northern Ireland, which is aligned with EU rules and regulations.

The protocol creates a de facto trade border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and rest of the UK.

The UK is considering the extension of the grace period, which allowed many of the products into Northern Ireland with relaxed checks, beyond June 30, when it will end.

The EU, however, says such a unilateral extension would be a breach to the internationally signed Brexit agreement.

The UK left the bloc on Jan. 31, 2020 as a result of a 2016 referendum that ended the country’s 47-year membership in the European club.

The agreement signed by the sides included the Northern Ireland Protocol, which practically avoided a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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