Brexit tensions have reached boiling point in recent days, with a row over the export of sausages to Northern Ireland threatening to overshadow the international summit. The fallout over the Northern Ireland Protocol, implemented as part of the withdrawal agreement, has sparked a fresh war of words between the UK and EU.
While the Prime Minister has been eager to keep the attention of the G7 on fighting coronavirus, climate change and promoting democratic values around the world, today Brexit will take centre stage.
This morning Mr Johnson will hold back to back meetings with France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel before confronting European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and President of the European Council, Charles Michel.
Just hours before welcoming EU leaders to Carbis Bay in Cornwall the Prime Minister lashed out at Brussels for taking an “excessively burdensome” approach to post-Brexit trading arrangements.
Under the terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol, bureaucratic customs checks are required on some goods crossing the Irish Sea from Britain.
The UK has already unilaterally extended the implementation of paperwork required from some goods and is now considering delaying imposing checks on British-made chilled meats which are due to come into force at the end of the month.
Checks would effectively put a ban on sausages made in Britain being sold in Northern Ireland.
Britain is demanding Brussels compromise on the rules of the mechanism, but the EU has so far stood firm on the matter.
Shortly before landing in the UK for the G7, Mr Macron said: “We have a Protocol under which there is this Northern Ireland Protocol and we have a trade deal.
“It has been painfully discussed for years, and discussed, let me remind you, on the initiative of the British who decided to leave.”
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said the UK is looking for a fix to the friction in talks and that he expected the Prime Minister to raise the Protocol with EU leaders.
Lord Frost, who is also in Cornwall for the G7, is understood to be preparing to join Mr Johnson in some of the meetings.
A senior UK source close to the negotiations said Lord Frost was often in the room when Brexit was discussed with EU leaders and this weekend was unlikely to be any different.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman refused to rule out taking unilateral action to ensure British sausages can continue to go to Northern Ireland.
He said: “We keep all options on the table.”
Brussels is already enraged at the UK for delaying the introduction of customs checks earlier in the year and has launched legal action against Britain.
It claims the extension of the grace periods breaks international law.
Ahead of the G7 European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič said the EU’s “patience is very, very, very thin”.
“The trust, which will be at the heart of every partnership, needs to be restored,” he said.