EU leaders pressure Boris Johnson on Northern Ireland at G7 meeting
After the British Prime Minister refused to accept plans to reduce border inspections in the region by aligning with EU food rules, Boris Johnson will face new pressure from European leaders at the G7 summit in Cornwall to resolve Brexit Tensions in post-Northern Ireland.
The Joe Biden government tried to assure Johnson that agreeing to follow Brussels’ regulations on food and animal inspections would not hinder the prospects for a future Anglo-US trade deal. But Downing Street insisted that this idea would not work.
Prior to the three-day G7 summit that began on Friday, the US President and Johnson discussed Northern Ireland’s trade rules at their first face-to-face meeting on Thursday. The British leader refuted earlier reports that he was reprimanded by Biden for his position on this issue.
But Johnson’s meeting with European leaders at the summit may not have been so diplomatic. He will meet with the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Lein on the sidelines of the summit on Saturday.
Johnson will also hold meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the weekend. On Friday, he met with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Macron, who was seen in London as taking a strong stance on the Northern Ireland issue, warned before the G7 meeting that the resumption of the Brexit agreement was “not serious”.
The French President said at a press conference on Thursday: “I think it’s not serious to want to review what we have finalized in July after years of debate and work in December.” “This is not between Britain and France. The problem is between Europeans and Britain.”
British aides said that although US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan said that Biden had “deep” concerns about the state of the peace process in Northern Ireland, this issue did not dominate the president’s meeting with Johnson.
On the contrary, the British Prime Minister said that the British-US relationship is not only “special” but also “indestructible”, describing Biden’s appearance on the world stage four years after Donald Trump’s presidency as “a breath of fresh air.”
The United States has been encouraging Johnson and the European Union to reach a compromise on how to best implement the Northern Ireland agreement-this is part of Johnson’s Brexit agreement involving border issues in the region.
The agreement leaves an open border on the island of Ireland — the Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union — but checks certain products from the UK to Northern Ireland to prevent them from eventually entering the EU single market.
European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic again this week urged the UK to agree to the “Swiss” model, that is, the UK will agree to align with Brussels food and agricultural inspections in order to significantly reduce the need for border inspections at Irish Sea ports.
The United States has been urging Britain to accept this proposal. Yael Lempert, the most senior US diplomat in the UK, suggested this month to David Frost, the Brexit Secretary, that such an agreement would be supported by Washington.
According to the British meeting minutes reported by The Times, she stated that Biden will ensure that “it will not negatively affect the chances of reaching a US-UK free trade agreement.”
The United Kingdom argues that it needs to be flexible in formulating its own rules-especially in the sensitive agricultural sector-to ensure trade agreements with countries that differ from the standards, especially the United States.
But Johnson’s allies said Britain would never accept that it would be bound by the Brussels rules. “This is a matter of principle,” one person said. “We won’t go that way.”
British officials said that when Biden met with the host in Cabis Bay on Thursday, he did not discuss the idea of ??aligning Britain with EU rules. They insist that, given the power of the U.S. agricultural lobby in the U.S. Congress, the U.K.’s application of EU agricultural rules will complicate the trade agreement with the U.S., and the U.S. Congress needs to approve the agreement.
The UK recommends that the EU recognize that the UK’s food and agricultural rules are “equivalent” to those set by Brussels, thereby reducing the need for inspections of products such as sausages and chilled meat. However, the assessment has been rejected by the European Union.