Boris Johnson repeatedly told European Union leaders the United Kingdom was “indivisible”, as Dominic Raab claimed they had been “offensive” by suggesting Northern Ireland was not part of the country.
The comments came after Emmanuel Macron reportedly suggested Northern Ireland was not part of the UK during his talks with Mr Johnson in the margins of the G7 summit.
At a close-of-summit press conference in Cornwall, Mr Johnson said: “Of course we make the point continuously we are part of one great, indivisible United Kingdom.”
He added: “What I am saying is that we will do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK, but actually what happened at this summit was there was a colossal amount of work on subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.”
Mr Macron used his G7 summit press conference to call for calm – but also insisted the terms of the Brexit deal must be honoured.
“I’m doing things very calmly,” he said.
“I believe that as far as this subject matter is concerned everybody has got to come back to reason.
“My wish, my will is that we succeed – we succeed collectively – to put into operation what we decided upon a few months ago.”
Earlier Mr Raab told Sky News: “We have serially seen senior EU figures talk about Northern Ireland as if it was some kind of different country to the UK. It is not only offensive, it has real world effects on the communities in Northern Ireland, creates great concern, great consternation.
“Could you imagine if we talked about Catalonia, the Flemish part of Belgium, one of the lander in Germany, northern Italy, Corsica in France as different countries? We need a bit of respect here.”
Mr Raab told Times Radio: “There was more than one senior European figure talking about this at this summit and I’ve heard it for years now.
“And the truth is Northern Ireland cannot be talked about as a separate country to the UK. It’s offensive. And that kind of approach speaks volumes. That is one of the reasons we have the problems we do with the Northern Ireland Protocol, because there isn’t a proper appreciation and there’s been a lopsided approach.”
When asked about the Foreign Secretary’s comments, Mr Johnson said: “What I am saying is that we will do whatever it takes to protect the territorial integrity of the UK, but actually what happened at this summit was there was a colossal amount of work on subjects that have absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.”
The row risked overshadowing the G7 summit, but Mr Johnson insisted it had taken up only a small part of the time in Carbis Bay.
“The vast, vast majority of the conversations that we have had over the last three or four days have been about other subjects and there has been a fantastic degree of harmony between the leaders of our countries.”
At the summit the leaders:
– Pledged over one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine – either directly or through funding to the Covax initiative.
– Committed to cut emissions and seek to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5 degrees.
– Pledged to meet net zero emissions no later than 2050.
– Conserve or protect at least 30% of land and oceans by 2030.
Mr Johnson said: “While it’s fantastic that every one of the G7 countries has pledged to wipe out our contributions to climate change, we need to make sure we’re achieving that as fast as we can and helping developing countries at the same time.”
He added that the countries taking part in the summit – the G7 of UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy along with guests Australia, South Africa, India and South Korea – were united by “democratic values”.
The summit – the first attended by Joe Biden as US President – has been an opportunity for democracies to band together as a counterweight to autocratic regimes like China and Russia.
“It’s not good enough for us to just rest on our laurels and talk about how important those values are,” Mr Johnson said.
“And this isn’t about imposing our values on the rest of the world. What we as the G7 need to do is demonstrate the benefits of democracy and freedom and human rights to rest of the world.”
Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “This was the most important G7 for a generation. But instead of agreeing concrete plans to tackle the biggest global challenges, Boris Johnson’s strained relationship with fellow world leaders has taken centre stage and derailed this crucial summit.
“By every measure, the Prime Minister’s summit has come up short. No clear plan to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022. No ambitious commitments to place us on the path to climate safety.”