CARBIS BAY, England (Reuters) – British foreign minister Dominic Raab criticised the European Union on Sunday for treating Northern Ireland as if it were a separate country rather than part of the United Kingdom, and said that approach was causing damage to the British province.
“Various EU figures here in Carbis Bay, but frankly for months now and years, have characterised Northern Ireland as somehow a separate country and that is wrong. It is a failure to understand the facts,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme.
Raab made his comments amid a dispute between Britain and the European Union over the interpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol, the element of the Brexit divorce deal that relates to trade in the province.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported that French President Emmanuel Macron had suggested Northern Ireland was not part of the United Kingdom during his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Group of Seven summit in Carbis Bay in southwest England.
“It is a failure to understand the facts. It is a failure to appreciate what speaking around Northern Ireland in those terms, and approaching the issue of the Northern Ireland protocol in those terms does, causes damage to businesses from both communities and that creates deep consternation,” Raab said.
“We wouldn’t talk about Catalonia and Barcelona or Corsica in France, in those ways,” he added.
Asked if Britain and the EU were heading for a trade war, Raab said the bloc needed to allow the free flow of trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.
“If the Commission and the EU stick to that, indeed mark the words of President Macron, we can find a pragmatic way through,” he said.
“What we cannot have is a lopsided approach, built on some of the flawed assumptions … and which have very real effects for the communities on all sides in Northern Ireland.”
(Reporting by Michael Holden and Elizabeth Piper; Editing by Frances Kerry)