Beth Rigby ‘surprised’ by Boris Johnson’s fierce Brexit stance – EU source startled

Boris Johnson: EU need to ‘understand UK is a single country’

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In an interview with Sky News’ political editor, the Prime Minister said Britain will do “whatever it takes” to make sure the Northern Ireland Protocol works. Mr Johnson said the UK will not hesitate to “invoke Article 16” if the protocol is rigidly applied after the six-month grace period ends later this month.

After the interview, Ms Rigby took to Twitter to reveal she was “surprised” by his reaction which has startled an EU source.

She tweeted: “PM section on NI Protocol.

“I was surprised tbh, he was leaning into a fight, not away from one.

“Which odd given how careful EU leaders have been this summit.”

One EU source reportedly told her: “I don’t understand, why so strong in the middle of an EU summit?”

Mr Johnson was asked whether the Northern Ireland Protocol could be sorted out by the end of June.

He told Ms Rigby: “But it’s up to our EU friends and partners to understand that, you know, we will do whatever it takes, and there is some misunderstanding.”

The Prime Minister added: “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 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.”

Mr Johnson was then asked whether the trade deal agreed with the EU was “oven-ready” and could lead to a “trade war” in July.

But the Prime Minister said it was “highly unlikely” before saying the EU needs to get into their heads that the UK is a “single territory” following its departure from the bloc.

He continued: “I think it highly unlikely.

“But if I may say so, I’ve talked to some of our friends here today who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory.

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

Mr Johnson’s comments are likely to inflame tensions in what were already strained relations between the UK and Brussels.

At the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall this morning, Mr Johnson held separate meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel.

The talks with the European Commission President and European Council President are understood to have focused almost entirely on the consequences of the Protocol since the start of the year.

The EU accused the UK of failing to properly implement the terms of the agreement by unilaterally suspending customs checks on some goods.

Meanwhile, the UK has blamed the EU for forcing it to take action due to being unfair in its implementation of the deal.

At the end of the month, Britain is meant to enforce customs checks on the transport of chilled foods such as sausages from Britain to Northern Ireland under the terms of the Protocol.

The Prime Minister has previously hit out at the paperwork, describing it as unnecessary and accusing the EU of being deliberately provocative in the way it is enforcing customs checks.

At the start of the year, the European Commission announced it was invoking Article 16 to impose a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It said the measure was necessary to stop coronavirus jabs moving across the border.

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