EU ‘trying to change status of Northern Ireland’ against its people’s will, Dominic Raab claims

·2-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Dominic Raab has accused the EU of “trying to change the status of Northern Ireland” against the will of its people, in a further ramping up of the conflict.

The foreign secretary lashed out after Emmanuel Macron angered Boris Johnson by telling him the province is not a full part of the UK – as a trade war looms over a ban on the sale of chilled meats, agreed by both sides.

Mr Raab said such talk was “offensive” and has “real world effects”, comparing it with describing Catalonia as not part of Spain, or Corsica as not part of France.

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

The French president and the prime minister clashed when Mr Johnson complained that cold meats could not be sent across the Irish Sea from Britain, after the end of the month.

“How would you like it if the French courts stopped you moving Toulouse sausages to Paris?” he is said to have protested, at the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

The French president is believed to have replied that it was “not a good comparison because Paris and Toulouse are part of the same country”, according to a UK government source.

A furious Mr Johnson replied: “Northern Ireland and Britain are part of the same country as well.”

In a later interview, the prime minister said EU leaders “seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory. I just need to get that into their heads”.

The Irish prime minister, Micheal Martin, warned the UK not to unilaterally waive the rules it signed up to in the Northern Ireland Protocol, a legal treaty in 2019.

“It’s not about sausages per se, it really is about the fact that an agreement had been entered into, not too long ago, signed off by the British government with the European Union,” he said.

“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.”

Neale Richmond, the Irish government’s European affairs spokesman, accused Mr Raab of “jingoistic word salad to try to deflect and shift Brexit blame”.

But Mr Raab told Sky News: “Can you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, Northern Italy, Corsican France as different countries?

“What we cannot have is the continuing disruption of trade and effectively trying to change the status of Northern Ireland contrary to the wishes or the consent of the people – which is not just contrary to the Northern Ireland protocol, but also the Belfast Agreement.”

Brussels has threatened to slap tariffs and quotas on UK exports – and even to suspend part of the Christmas trade deal – if the government breaches the Protocol by shelving the chilled meats ban.

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