The European Union has acted in an “offensive” way by repeatedly refusing to treat Northern Ireland as part of the UK, Dominic Raab has claimed.
The Foreign Secretary deepened the rift with Brussels over the trading arrangements which apply to Northern Ireland under the Brexit deal, accusing EU figures of showing a lack of respect to the UK.
His comments came after Emmanuel Macron reportedly suggested Northern Ireland was not part of the UK during his talks with Boris Johnson in the margins of the G7 summit.
“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,” Mr Raab told Sky News.
“We have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it was some kind of different country to the UK. It is not only offensive, it has real world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, great consternation.
“Could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, one of the lander in Germany, northern Italy, Corsica in France as different countries? We need a bit of respect here.”
Mr Raab told Times Radio: “There was more than one senior European figure talking about this at this summit and I’ve heard it for years now.
“And the truth is Northern Ireland cannot be talked about as a separate country to the UK. It’s offensive. And that kind of approach speaks volumes. That is one of the reasons we have the problems we do with the Northern Ireland Protocol, because there isn’t a proper appreciation and there’s been a lopsided approach.”
The Prime Minister will hold a press conference on Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of a gathering which has seen him clash with European Union leaders.
Mr Johnson has threatened to unilaterally delay the imposition of checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland in protest at the way in which the deal he agreed is being implemented.
The Prime Minister met French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel in the margins of the summit on Saturday.
Mr Johnson appeared frustrated at the way the talks had gone, saying: “I’ve talked to some of our friends here today who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory.
“I think they just need to get that into their heads.”
The comment may have been prompted by his talks with Mr Macron over the ban on shipping chilled meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which is due to come into force at the end of the month.
The Sunday Telegraph said the Prime Minister attempted to explain his frustration with the Northern Ireland Protocol – the part of the Brexit divorce deal covering the arrangements – by asking Mr Macron what he would do if sausages from Toulouse could not be moved to Paris.
The French president reportedly claimed the comparison did not work because Paris and Toulouse were both part of the same country, wrongly suggesting Northern Ireland is not within the UK.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said he was “not going to get drawn into the discussions the Prime Minister had with president Macron”.
Mr Johnson is considering extending the current grace period without the consent of Brussels to ensure that sausages and mince can continue to reach Northern Ireland’s shops.
The Prime Minister insisted he would do “whatever it takes” including using Article 16 of the Protocol to act without Brussels’ agreement, which would trigger retaliations from the EU in a dispute which has been dubbed the “sausage war”.
In the main business on the final day of the summit, the leaders of the G7 – the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy – will make a series of environmental commitments in Carbis Bay.
Environmentalist Sir David Attenborough delivered a pre-recorded message to the G7, plus guests Australia, India, South Korea and South Africa, at a session on climate and nature.
Mixed in with the environmental intentions of the G7 is an attempt to reassert the values of the world’s leading democracies.
The “build back better for the world” plan will bring together G7 countries to develop an offer for high quality financing for vital infrastructure, from railways in Africa to wind farms in Asia.
The move is part of an attempt to counter Beijing’s “belt and road” initiative which has spread Chinese influence around the globe.
Mr Johnson said: “Protecting our planet is the most important thing we as leaders can do for our people.”
Mr Johnson met South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and South Korean leader Moon Jae-in on Sunday morning.