Boris Johnson ambushed at G7 over Brexit ‘sausage war’ as he meets Merkel and EU chiefs

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Boris Johnson was warned to keep his word over the Northern Ireland Protocol today as EU leaders ganged up on the Prime Minister at the G7 summit.

Mr Johnson was ambushed in a series of one-to-one meetings in the margins of the get-together in Cornwall, the most recent coming with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But Downing Street signalled a toughening of the Government's position as a “sausage war” with Brussels looms.

The PM's spokesman said: “The PM's desire currently is to work within the existing Protocol to find radical changes and pragmatic solutions. That is our immediate focus.”

That left the door open to a switch in policy which could see the UK unilaterally delay the full implementation of the Protocol to prevent a ban on chilled meats crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.

Boris Johnson meets European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel at the G7 summit
(Image: PA)

The Protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European single market to avoid a hard border with Ireland – the UK's only and frontier with the EU – meaning a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods crossing from Great Britain.

Restrictions on British-produced chilled meats entering Northern Ireland – agreed by Mr Johnson when he signed the Brexit deal in December – are due to come into force at the end of the month.

Delaying the checks without Brussels' agreement risks triggering a "sausage war" trade dispute, with the EU threatening to respond to any breach of the agreement.

The PM on Saturday pleaded for “compromise on all sides”.

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron elbow bump as they arrive for the G7 summit on Friday
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson met Angela Merkel today
(Image: REUTERS)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stressed the pact had been agreed by Mr Johnson.

"Both sides must implement what we agreed on. There is complete EU unity on this,” she said after 40 minutes of talks with the PM and European Council President Charles Michel in Carbis Bay.

"The Good Friday Agreement and peace on the island of Ireland are paramount.”

Brexit Minister Lord David Frost, who brokered the deal for the UK as the Government's chief negotiator, also attended the meetings.

EU leaders ganged up on the Prime Minister at the G7 summit
(Image: PA)

A No10 spokeswoman said of the negotiations between the PM and EU chiefs: “The Prime Minister made it clear that the UK is committed to finding practical solutions within the framework of the Protocol which protect the aims of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and minimise the impact on the day to day lives of people in Northern Ireland.

“They agreed on the need for continued meaningful engagement to resolve the outstanding issues.”

French President Emmanuel Macron demanded a “reset” of relations with Britain as he met with Mr Johnson on the summit fringe.

He urged the PM to “keep his word” over the Brexit border row, according to an official.

"The President told Boris Johnson there needed to be a reset of the Franco-British relationship," said a source.

"This can happen provided that he keeps his word with the Europeans.”

A No10 spokeswoman said of the talks with Mr Macron: “The Prime Minister expressed confidence in the UK’s position in the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“He made clear his desire for pragmatism and compromise on all sides but underlined that protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions was paramount.”

Oxfam campaigners pose as G7 leaders on Swanpool Beach near Falmouth, Cornwall
(Image: PA)

Mr Johnson also spoke about the row when he met Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is attending her last international summit before standing down this autumn.

“The Prime Minister underlined the UK’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol and the need to maintain both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UK,” said Downing Street.

The mounting row over checks on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland had always threatened to derail Mr Johnson's carefully-laid plans to project post-Britain on the global stage as he hosted world leaders.

He narrowly avoided a rift with US President Joe Biden, who has Irish roots, when the pair held talks in Cornwall on Thursday.

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But European leaders seized the chance to remind the PM he signed up to the deal.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab fanned the flames by accusing Brussels of being “bloody minded”.

He told the BBC: "They can be more pragmatic about the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that is win-win or they can be bloody-minded and purist about it, in which case I am afraid we will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened."

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