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30th Sep 2022

Brexit grumbles overshadow UK summit

  • British prime minister Boris Johnson: the row on chilled meat exports was dubbed 'sausage wars' by British media (Photo: Number 10 - Flickr)

Harsh words on Brexit overshadowed a G7 summit in the UK this weekend, which also pledged more vaccines for poor countries and criticised China on forced labour.

"I think we can sort it out but ... it is up to our EU friends and partners to understand that we will do whatever it takes," British prime minister Boris Johnson told the Sky News broadcaster on Saturday (12 June).

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"I think if the protocol continues to be applied in this way, then we will obviously not hesitate to invoke Article 16," referring to a special clause in the Brexit treaty that allows emergency unilateral measures.

"I've talked to some of our friends here today, who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory. I just need to get that into their heads," Johnson also said, alluding to his EU guests, Council president Charles Michel and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The latest row on post-Brexit customs arrangements for Northern Ireland has centred round checks on exports of chilled meat, dubbed "sausage wars" in British media.

Northern Ireland has stayed in the EU customs union to enable an open land border with Ireland, but now faces customs controls in maritime entry points from the UK.

And the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, also used aggressive rhetoric this weekend.

"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," he told BBC radio.

"The threat, the risk, to the Good Friday agreement comes from the approach the EU has taken, a particularly purist approach," he also said, referring to a 1998 peace deal, which ended sectarian fighting in Ireland.

But for her part, von der Leyen insisted on applying the letter of the law.

"Both sides must implement what we agreed on ... There is complete EU unity on this," she said at the G7 summit.

The annual event also brought together US president Joe Biden, who was on is his first trip to Europe since being elected, and the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

The group pledged an extra 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines for poor countries.

The G7 communiqué also promised a "green revolution" in industry and spoke of "the power of democracy, freedom, equality, the rule of law, and respect for human rights".

But its vaccine pledge was deemed inadequate and its climate promises too vague by charity groups.

"Never in the history of the G7 has there been a bigger gap between their actions and the needs of the world," Oxfam's Max Lawson said on vaccines.

"Despite the green soundbites, Boris Johnson has simply reheated old promises and peppered his plan with hypocrisy," Greenpeace UK's executive director, John Sauven, said.

The final communiqué also made no mention of China, leaving the US to publish a separate statement on Chinese human-rights abuses and its menace to Taiwan.

Germany, among others, opted for the softer approach, in order to help get China on board with climate pledges, British newspaper The Guardian reported.

EU warns UK of using 'real teeth' in post-Brexit deal

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen promised "not to hesitate" to use the "real teeth" of the future relations agreement between the UK and EU, if Britain does not comply with the deal.

Opinion

Brexit: what is the 'Lugano Convention' and does it matter?

After Brexit, the UK ceased to be a member of the Lugano Convention, an international treaty which governs cross-border civil and commercial legal disputes. In May, the European Commission published an opinion calling for the UK's re-application to be rejected.

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