FRANCE will not tolerate “any weakness” from the European Union in pressuring Boris Johnson to uphold the Brexit agreement, Emmanuel Macron has warned.
In a furious outburst, the French President accused Downing Street of rowing back on its deal signed with Brussels. He said: “We reaffirmed our clear and simple wish to simply see the test and spirit of the agreement applied. Applied completely and in good faith. “The situation in which we find ourselves as regards our fishermen, as regards respect for our common market, and as regards the Irish border – today these are the subject of unilateral measures by the British, which do not respect the agreements.”
Mr Macron’s remarks come after EU leaders discussed the bloc’s future relationship with the UK for the first time since the trade pact was signed last December.
They agreed that Downing Street would be given little leeway in the wrangling over the Northern Ireland border despite warnings that the EU’s hardline stance could spark warfare in the region.
Instead, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen blamed the Prime Minister’s pursuit of a hard Brexit for the recent spate of uncertainty in the province.
Both sides are in talks to ease tensions in Northern Ireland after a recent spate of rioting rocked the region.
Brexit minister Lord Frost has called for the Protocol, designed to avoid a hard border, to be implemented in a balanced way.
He has warned the trade arrangements, which include customs controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, are undermining the peace agreement.
Downing Street has urged Brussels to be pragmatic, but insiders fear the bloc’s bureaucratic nature if preventing a compromise.
But EU leaders have snubbed calls for the Northern Ireland Protocol to be watered down.
Mr Macron added: “We will not in any case accept any weakness.
“We reiterated very clearly our desire to see the British accept what they have signed, recalling simply that if these situations are difficult to manage, it’s precisely because of Brexit and in no case because of the EU.”
Brussels Boss Mrs von der Leyen had a similar message earlier this morning.
She said: “There should be no doubt that there is no alternative to the full and correct implementation of the protocol.
“And I think it is important to reiterate that the protocol is the only possible solution to ensure peace and stability in Northern Ireland while protecting the integrity of the European Union’s single market.
“If we see problems today we should not forget that they do not come from the protocol but they result from Brexit. That is the reason why the problems are there.
“Now, it’s our common duty with the United Kingdom to do whatever we can to reduce tensions in Northern Ireland and that is why we are exploring practical solutions to help to minimise the disruptions to the everyday life in Northern Ireland.”
The EU’s remarks sparked a furious response from Downing Street officials, who accused Brussels of risking future flare-ups of violence in Northern Ireland.
The PM’s official spokesman said: “The Protocol relies on the support of all communities in Northern Ireland so it is disappointing that there was not more recognition from the Commission President of the impact that the current operation of the Protocol is having in Northern Ireland.
“While the EU prioritise protection of the single market and treat the regulatory boundary as if it were like any other external EU border, our focus remains on protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions.
“We are committed to working constructively with them to find solutions which protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions. However, for this to happen, the EU must show common sense and take a pragmatic, risk-based approach to the challenges that remain.
“The EU has a responsibility to work with us to address the significant challenges that the Protocol is causing for businesses and citizens.
“The EU are treating the regulatory boundary in the Irish Sea as if it were like any other external EU border, with all the checks and processes that go with that.
“The EU must live up to these commitments and show common sense and pragmatism in the talks.”