- EU-UK post-Brexit trade deal
media captionDominic Raab says EU figures characterised Northern Ireland "as somehow a separate country"
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says it is "offensive" that France's president characterised Northern Ireland "as somehow a separate country" to the UK.
His remarks came after Emmanuel Macron reportedly said Northern Ireland was not part of the UK during a G7 summit meeting.
It was in response to Boris Johnson asking how he would feel if sausages from Toulouse could not move to Paris.
An Elysee source said Mr Macron was talking about "geographical territory".
They told the BBC: "President Macron said that Toulouse and Paris were on the same geographical territory, Northern Ireland is on an island.
"The president wanted to stress that the situation was quite different and that it was not appropriate to make this kind of comparison."
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But Mr Raab said the sentiment about Northern Ireland being separate from the rest of the UK had been expressed by the EU for "years".
He told the BBC's Andrew Marr programme it was "a failure to understand the facts" on the EU's part about Northern Ireland and caused "damage" to businesses and communities.
The row comes amid ongoing problems with the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol.
The policy was designed to ensure a border would not be introduced on the island of Ireland to protect the Good Friday Agreement – and sees Northern Ireland continue to follow many of the EU rules on trade.
But as a result, it created a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, leading to additional checks on items moved between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
image copyrightReutersimage captionPresident Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are both at the G7 summit in Cornwall
So-called "grace periods" were introduced after the post-Brexit trade deal came into force, allowing goods to continue to move as normal while people adjusted to the new way of working.
But as it stands, controls will be introduced from July on chilled meat products like sausages and mince – effectively banning them from entering Northern Ireland unless the UK agrees to match EU standards on its products.
The UK has already unilaterally extended some grace periods – leading to legal action from the EU.
But Ireland's Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin warned it would be "very problematic" if the UK did the same again, telling Sky News it would strain relations.
He added: "It's not about sausages per se, it really is about the fact that an agreement had been entered into not too long ago and if there's consistent, unilateral deviation from that agreement, that clearly undermines the broader relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, which is in nobody's interest."
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Ahead of meetings at the G7 – attended by leaders of the EU, France, Germany and Italy – top EU official Maros Sefcovic said the bloc's patience was "wearing thin" with the UK, insisting it needed to follow the rules it agreed on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
But during the summit, Mr Johnson said he would do "whatever it takes" to protect the territorial integrity of the UK.
He told the BBC there was "quite a lot of misunderstanding around the EU about the situation in Northern Ireland [and] the balance of the Good Friday Agreement" and he hoped the two sides would find "pragmatic solutions".
Labour's shadow international trade secretary, Emily Thornberry, told Andrew Marr that the two sides needed to "stop bickering" and "actually find a practical solution".
media captionLabour's Emily Thornberry urges the UK government and the EU to "stop bickering and find a practical solution"
Asked on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show whether President Macron had made the comment, Mr Raab said he would not "divulge the detail of what was discussed behind closed doors".
But the foreign secretary added: "What I can tell you is various EU figures here [at the G7 summit], but frankly for months now and years, have characterised Northern Ireland as somehow a separate country and that is wrong.
"It is a failure to understand the facts, it is a failure to appreciate what speaking around Northern Ireland in those terms and approaching the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol in those terms does.
"It causes damage to businesses from both communities in Northern Ireland, creates deep consternation, and we wouldn't talk about Catalonia and Barcelona or Corsica in France in those ways."
Edwin Poots, the new leader of the DUP – Northern Ireland's largest unionist party – also called the remark by President Macron offensive, saying the French leader "doesn't understand the basics, let alone the finer details".
Mr Poots, who wants the protocol to be removed, added: "This also exposes the ignorance which lies at the heart of the EU. They seem blind to the destruction the protocol has caused to the Belfast Agreement."
But a source from the Elysee Palace said Mr Macron had "recalled that the UK's exit from the EU had been a British decision and that they must now keep their word" on implementing the protocol.
Mr Johnson's official spokesman said he was "not going to get drawn into the discussions the prime minister had with President Macron".