Emmanuel Macron has declared that Boris Johnson was “well aware” of “incoherences” in the Northern Ireland Protocol when he signed up to it, as the sausage trade row deepened on Sunday.
The French President used a press conference at the end of the three-day G7 summit in Cornwall to demand that the Prime Minister act “professionally” and respect the terms of the controversial mechanism.
The Brexit row threatened to overshadow the summit of leaders from wealthy democracies, although Joe Biden, the US president, avoided being drawn into taking sides during his own press conference, before he flew to Windsor to meet the Queen.
The Northern Ireland Protocol, which was negotiated as part of Brexit, introduced customs checks on goods crossing from Britain to Northern Ireland in order to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
However, it has sparked significant disruption to the movement of food, plants and other items and has stoked political tensions in Northern Ireland.
Under the terms of the protocol, new checks on sausages, burgers and other chilled meats are set to start from next month.
Mr Johnson is pressing the EU to agree to a more “pragmatic” application of the rules, but if a resolution cannot be reached, he has threatened to unilaterally renege on part of the deal.
Number 10 is fearful that the new category of checks on chilled meats could undermine the integrity of the UK and escalate the febrile political situation in NI.
On Sunday, Mr Macron signalled he saw no room for manoeuvre, however, echoing the stance of EU leaders who also warned over the weekend that “both sides must implement what we agreed on”.
The French president said: “For a number of years after Brexit we’ve established certain rules and a protocol of agreement and commercial treaty for future relations. We just want them to be respected seriously, calmly, professionally – that’s all.”
Insisting that the Brexit deal that Mr Johnson signed off on “always envisaged controls”, Mr Macron added: “One mustn’t make the EU deal with certain incoherences that the UK was well aware of at the beginning.”
His intervention came after it emerged that he had suggested Northern Ireland was not an integral part of the United Kingdom during bilateral talks with Mr Johnson on Saturday morning.
Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said Mr Macron’s attitude was “offensive” and “a failure to understand the facts”.
Such attitudes “cause damage to businesses from both communities in Northern Ireland” and spark “deep consternation”, he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show.
The Prime Minister said he repeatedly made the argument to European leaders that the UK is “indivisible” and served notice that he “will do whatever it takes” to protect the territorial integrity of the country.
Seeking to play down the row, he added: “What happened at this summit was there was a colossal amount of work on subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.”
Speaking to reporters in French, Mr Macron insisted that “France has never allowed itself to question British sovereignty, the integrity of the British territory.”
In a further dig at the UK, he described Brexit as “the child of this British sovereignty”, adding: “It has created thousands of hours or work for European leaders, so we know very well what British sovereignty is.”