Macron warns Johnson not to keep his promise on Northern Ireland

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned Boris Johnson that efforts to restore relations between Paris and London will fail unless the British prime minister makes good on his promise on a Brexit deal in Northern Ireland.

At a breakfast meeting on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall, Macron made it clear that he expected Johnson to honor the Brexit deal struck with the European Union last December.

The European Union has threatened to punish Britain – including with trade sanctions – if Johnson unilaterally breaches his commitments on border checks contained in the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit deal.

Downing Street sees Macron as the most hawkish EU leader on the issue. Disagreements between French presidents and British prime ministers at world summits are common – and often play well at home.

But Macron’s warning underscored the seriousness with which the European Union takes the escalating crisis in Northern Ireland.

Joe Biden, President of the United States, expressed deep concern about the future of the peace process.

A source from the Elysee told an English-language breakfast that Macron had told Johnson he was ready to restore ties with London and that Britain and France had many common interests.

The Elysee source said: “But the president has emphasized very strongly that this re-engagement requires the British to honor the promises made to the Europeans and to respect the Brexit agreement.”

The protocol requires Britain to check certain goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to avoid their unchecked passage across open borders to Ireland, a member of the European Union, and to the single market.

The introduction of an effective trading frontier within the territory of the United Kingdom angered pro-UK unionists in Northern Ireland and increased tension in the region.

Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet that the Good Friday Agreement and Peace on the Island of Ireland are of paramount importance.

“We have negotiated a protocol that maintains that, signed and ratified by the UK and the EU,” she said. We want the best possible relationship with the UK. Both sides must implement what we have agreed. There is complete unity in the European Union on this.”

Johnson argues that the EU is intransigent in the way it implements the protocol and that a clash is approaching later this month over the question of checking chilled meat products across the Irish Sea.

The European Union bans the import of refrigerated meat – including sausages and ground beef. A ‘grace period’ to allow UK chilled meat products to continue to be sold in NI is ending at the end of June.

Johnson reserved the right to unilaterally ignore the ban in a move the EU warned could lead to retaliation under the terms of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Maros Sefcovic, Vice President of the European Commission, confirmed last week that this could include trade sanctions, raising fears of a trade war or – in tabloid headlines – a “sausage war”.

Johnson also held talks Saturday morning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

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