Boris Johnson calls for 'compromise on all sides' over Northern Ireland Protocol at G7 meeting with European leaders

Credit: PA

The Prime Minister has called for “compromise on all sides” over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Downing Street has said.

Boris Johnson is holding talks at the G7 summit with the European Union's key players, as the dispute over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements threatens to overshadow his hosting of the summit.

The so-called 'sausage wars' could see a situation in which British-made sausages could not be sold in Northern Ireland, in line with the Brexit deal agreed by Boris Johnson's government.

The PM held meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel at the G7 summit in Cornwall.

The PM was in meetings with key European leaders on Saturday morning. Credit: PA

A No 10 spokesman said: "He made clear his desire for pragmatism and compromise on all sides but underlined that protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions was paramount.

"The Prime Minister underlined the UK’s position on the Northern Ireland Protocol and the need to maintain both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the UK.

"The Prime Minister made it clear that the UK is committed to finding practical solutions within the framework of the protocol which protect the aims of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and minimise the impact on the day-to-day lives of people in Northern Ireland."

Social distancing was in evidence as the PM played host to the G7 gathering in Cornwall Credit: Leon Neal/PA

The main summit agenda will see the leaders commit to a new plan aimed at preventing a repeat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The leaders of the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy will close the day with a barbecue on the beach, with entertainment provided by a Cornish sea shanty group and a Red Arrows flypast.

But before then Mr Johnson faces a potentially tricky series of meetings with the EU’s senior representatives at the summit.

Downing Street has indicated the UK would be prepared to unilaterally delay the full implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to prevent a ban on chilled meats crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain.

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Restrictions on British-produced chilled meats entering Northern Ireland are due to come into force at the end of the month.

Delaying those checks without Brussels’ agreement risks triggering a “sausage war” trade dispute, with the EU threatening to respond to any breach of the deal signed by the Prime Minister.

Mr Johnson has suggested the EU is taking an “excessively burdensome” approach to post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The protocol effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European single market in order to avoid a hard border with Ireland, meaning a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods crossing from Great Britain.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told reporters in Cornwall the immediate priority was to find “radical and urgent solutions within the protocol”.

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener rounds up Friday's event as the leaders smiled for photographers, while splits over Northern Ireland remained hard to ignore

But “we keep all options on the table”, he added, indicating the possibility of a unilateral extension of the current grace period to allow sausages to continue to be shipped across the Irish Sea.

Downing Street played down expectations of Mr Johnson finding a resolution to the impasse at the Carbis Bay summit.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman suggested the G7 meeting was “not the forum in which he is necessarily seeking to come up with an immediate solution” to the issue.

At a press conference ahead of the G7 summit, Mrs von der Leyen insisted the protocol is the “only solution” to prevent a hard border with the Republic and must be implemented in full.

Boris Johnson and Carrie Johnson with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and her husband Heiko von der Leyen. Credit: PA

Mr Macron also warned the Brexit deal cannot be renegotiated.

The main business of the summit will see the leaders discuss building resilience to future crises, consider foreign policy and then decide on their response to Covid-19.

Leaders from the G7 will commit to a new plan – the Carbis Bay Declaration – to quash future pandemics within the first 100 days.

The UK will also create a new animal vaccine centre aimed at preventing future diseases crossing from creatures to humans.

As part of Mr Johnson’s “Global Britain” agenda the leaders of South Korea, India, Australia and South Africa will also take part in the summit events, expanding the G7 to take in other prominent democracies.