The French president final evening ramped up the strain on Boris Johnson over the Northern Ireland protocol by insisting “nothing is negotiable” because the G7 summit of world leaders risked being overshadowed by the bitter standoff over Brexit.
In a defiant intervention as he ready to journey to the UK, Emmanuel Macron warned Boris Johnson that France is not open to renegotiating any side of the protocol – and even appeared to lift questions on whether or not the UK might be trusted.
Asked about British calls for for points of the protocol to be reworked, Macron informed journalists at an Elysee press convention: “I think this is not serious – to want to have another look at something in July that was finalised in December after years of discussions and work.”
“We have a protocol,” he continued. “If after six months you say we cannot respect what was negotiated, then that says nothing can be respected. I believe in the weight of a treaty, I believe in taking a serious approach. Nothing is negotiable. Everything is applicable.”
His powerful phrases got here as Johnson was compelled to minimize divisions with US president Joe Biden, calling him “a breath of fresh air”, after it emerged that US diplomats had remonstrated with the UK’s Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, concerning the threat of tensions being infected in Northern Ireland.
Talks on resolving the deadlock over the implementation of the protocol collapsed with out settlement earlier this week, and Frost has accused the EU aspect of “legal purism” in its interpretation of the settlement. He is anticipated to hitch the summit on Friday.
Both Downing Street and the White House reaffirmed their dedication to the Good Friday Agreement after the talks, and burdened the necessity for the standoff to be resolved collectively, between the UK and the EU.
But Johnson’s official spokesperson made clear afterwards that didn’t imply the UK was stepping again from the specter of taking unilateral motion – akin to invoking Article 16 of the settlement, to droop the protocol. “We continue to keep all options on the table, because time is short,” the spokesperson mentioned.
EU analyst Mujtaba Rahman, of consultancy Eurasia Group, mentioned he now places a 30% chance on the chance of an EU-UK commerce struggle, during which he mentioned the EU might retaliate by limiting UK fish exports and even interrupting the UK’s electrical energy provide to Jersey and mainland Great Britain. He mentioned an intervention by the G7 appeared essential to resolve the state of affairs. “All eyes are on Cornwall, as the relationship hangs on the precipice.”
The prime minister’s spokesperson rejected Macron’s feedback, saying, “We are absolutely acting in accordance with what was agreed and what was set out.” He mentioned the protocol had been agreed in “challenging circumstances”, and claimed the UK had already made greater than 10 proposals for resolving the standoff, and “we are yet to hear back”.
“Our view is the EU continues to prioritise protection of the single market, even though there is very little risk to it.”
The prime minister insisted that discussions with Biden had been “very good” – although unusually the pair didn’t maintain a joint press convention, as an alternative giving separate statements on digital camera.
“There’s no question that under President Biden there is a massive amount that the new US administration wants to do together with the UK, on everything from security, working together, protecting our values around the world together, but also on climate change,” the prime minister mentioned. “So it’s a big breath of fresh air. It’s new, it’s interesting, and we’re working very hard together.
“One thing we all, absolutely want to do, and that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure that we keep the balance of the peace process going. That’s absolutely common ground, and I’m absolutely optimistic that we can do that.”
Biden was equally effusive about what he referred to as a “very productive meeting”, referring in his post-talks feedback to the “special relationship” between the US and UK, a time period of which Johnson is reportedly not a fan.
Biden mentioned: “We affirmed the special relationship – that is not said lightly – the special relationship between our people and renewed our commitment to defending the enduring democratic values that both our nations share.”
The pair exchanged items, with Biden giving Johnson a US-made bike, and the prime minister giving him an image of the abolitionist Fredrick Douglas, from an Edinburgh mural.
Earlier, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, who will meet Johnson in Cornwall alongside fee president Ursula von der Leyen, mentioned it was “paramount to implement what we have decided” over Northern Ireland.
Johnson and Biden have been all smiles as they greeted one another on digital camera earlier than their talks, the placement of which needed to be moved to the convention resort from St Michael’s Mount, simply off the Cornish coast, due to poor climate.
When Biden mentioned the pair had each “married above our station”, Johnson replied: “I’m not going to disagree with the president on that or anything else.” He added that it was “fantastic” to see Biden.
While Brexit doesn’t formally function on the formal agenda, with Johnson telling Atlantic journal just lately: “We’ve sucked that lemon dry,” the US is involved about Frost’s ways over the implementation of post-Brexit border checks in Northern Ireland.
Biden’s nationwide safety adviser, Jake Sullivan, had hammered dwelling Washington’s message on the way in which to London on Thursday, telling journalists: “Any steps that imperil or undermine the Good Friday agreement will not be welcomed by the US.”
Labour’s Louise Haigh, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, mentioned: “It is worrying on the eve of such an important summit that Boris Johnson’s actions are isolating Britain from our strongest allies. The prime minister personally negotiated the protocol, so has a responsibility to make it work, and protect the precious Good Friday Agreement.”
Other G7 leaders arrive tomorrow, and Johnson will maintain bilateral conferences together with his counterparts from Japan, Canada and Italy.
The leaders will maintain their first formal summit session within the afternoon, overlaying the recovery from the Covid pandemic, earlier than meeting the Queen for a reception on the Eden Project.