G7: Macron 'tilting at straw man' over Brexit says expert
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The French leader caused a furious diplomatic spat at the summit in Cornwall over the weekend, sparking Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to accuse him and other EU figures of talking about Northern Ireland “as if it was some kind of different country to the UK”.
Mr Raab described such attitudes as “offensive” and called on the EU to show “respect” as such comments caused deep concern within Northern Ireland.
But at his closing news conference, President Macron strongly denied that he had ever questioned British sovereignty but insisted the UK must honour the commitments which Mr Johnson signed up to in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
The French President bitterly pointed out EU leaders had spent “thousands of hours” debating the Brexit deal before it was signed by Mr Johnson – reproaching that no other member state had required the bloc to understand the concept of sovereignty as much as the UK.
He said: “France has never for a single moment disputed UK sovereignty or its territorial integrity or the respect for it.
“Brexit is the child of this very UK sovereignty.
“And it took up thousands of hours of EU leaders’ time.
“We Europeans know all about UK sovereignty, no other European country has made the others spend so much time on its sovereignty.
“We respect it.
“Because of Brexit we put rules in place over a period of several years, a protocol and a future trade deal.
“All we want is for it to be respected.
“Seriously, calmly, professionally, that’s all.
“It’s as simple as that.
“When Johnson became Prime Minister, he refused the backstop which Theresa May had wanted.
“It did reconcile the sovereignty of UK territory, the Good Friday Agreement and the Single Market.
“Johnson knew very well back then there would have to be checks and he himself signed a protocol about Northern Ireland meaning checks.
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“Full respect of sovereignty in Northern Ireland cannot mean not respecting the sovereignty of 27 member states who have created a single market with free movement but outside border controls.
“You cannot blame the EU for your own incoherence.
“I do things very calmly, I think we should all calm down. I want us to achieve together what we decided together a few months ago calmly and with mutual respect.
“And looking for arguments each morning is not the right way.”
The continuing row over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the agreement – intended to protect the peace process by ensuring there is no return to a hard border with the Republic – overshadowed much of the summit.
Mr Johnson repeated his warning that he could unilaterally delay the latest checks on chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland – due to come into force at the end of the month – unless there was a resolution to the dispute.
The EU has previous said that its patience is wearing “very, very thin” and had threatened to launch a trade war unless the UK abides by its treaty obligations.
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