Brexit: Boris Johnson repeats threat to suspend Northern Ireland Protocol amid sausage trade row

Boris Johnson has vowed to “do whatever it takes” as he repeated his threat to suspend Brexit agreements with the EU over Northern Ireland.

The prime minister, who is in Cornwall for the G7 summit, spent Saturday morning holding talks with EU leaders amid an ongoing row over post-Brexit checks on trade moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Speaking to Sky News political editor Beth Rigby after those talks, Mr Johnson claimed that some within the EU “misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory”.

“I think they just need to get that into their heads,” he added.

Amid the continuing dispute with the EU, the prime minister also reiterated that he is prepared to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

That clause is intended to be used when the protocol – designed to avoid a post-Brexit hard border on the island of Ireland and a key part of the UK’s divorce deal with the EU – is unexpectedly leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

It allows either the UK or the EU to act unilaterally to avoid those difficulties.

The prime minister has said the current implementation of the protocol is having a “damaging impact” on the people of Northern Ireland.

“I think if the protocol continues to be applied in this way then we will obviously not hesitate to invoke Article 16 as I’ve said before,” he told Sky News.

“And don’t forget the EU themselves invoked Article 16 in January to disapply the protocol so they could stop the movement of vaccines from the EU to the UK.”

The current row over the protocol has centred on suggestions Mr Johnson could delay the imposition of post-Brexit checks on chilled meats entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain – such as sausages and mince – when a current “grace period” expires at the end of this month.

The EU has warned of retaliatory measures – such as legal action or tariffs on UK exports – in response.

“I think the protocol can work if it’s sensibly applied but, at the moment – it’s not just a question of chilled meats or sausages – there are all kinds of impediments being constructed,” the prime minister added.

“And we need to sort it out. I think we can sort it out.”

The prime minister met with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday, while he also held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel.

After their discussions, Ms von der Leyen warned Mr Johnson to “implement what we agreed”, while Mr Macron was said to have told the prime minister to “keep his word” over the protocol.

Asked whether he had lied last year when he said there would be a trade border down the Irish Sea “over my dead body”, Mr Johnson replied: “I think that the treaty we signed, I signed, is perfectly reasonable.

“I don’t think that the interpretation or application of the protocol is sensible or pragmatic.

“What I’m hearing from our friends in the EU is that they understand the strength of our feeling on this and they understand why a government might want to protect the territorial integrity of the UK, plus the UK’s internal market.”

Downing Street earlier denied that the prime minister was worried the Brexit dispute was overshadowing this weekend’s G7 summit, where he is keen to strike global agreements on COVID vaccines and climate change.

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