In a defiant message, the foreign secretary said the bitter stand-off was putting the unity of the country at risk, vowing: “We will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened.”
The criticism came as Boris Johnson faced an onslaught of pressure to end his refusal to impose agreed checks and restrictions on trade across the Irish Sea, in face-to-face talks with EU leaders.
He is meeting Emmanuel Macron, the French President, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, at the G7 summit in Cornwall – where the controversy will be raised.
On the summit eve, Mr Macron branded the UK’s attempt to reopen the Northern Ireland Protocol, a legal treaty signed in 2019, as “not serious”, saying: “Nothing is renegotiable.”
The EU has warned it is ready to start a trade war if the UK defies unilaterally an agreed ban on chilled meats being exported from Great Britain across the Irish Sea, from July.
But Mr Raab said the Protocol was designed to ensure “all communities in Northern Ireland” are protected, insisting the EU must respect “both sides of that pact”.
“They can be more pragmatic about the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in a way that is win-win or they can be bloody-minded and purist about it,” he told BBC Radio 4.
“In which case I am afraid we will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened.”
In the interview, Mr Raab faced the suggestion that the UK’s clout on the world stage is weakening, because “people don’t trust the word of the British government”.
“They make a treaty on Brexit and N Ireland, now they want to break it. They say they’ll give international aid at a certain level, then they change their mind,” the foreign secretary was told.
But he rejected the charge, insisting: “When I go outside of Brussels, probably not even outside of Europe, no one talks to us in those terms.”
As he travelled “around the world”, the UK’s “respect for international law” was recognised, Mr Raab claimed, pointing to its strong stance on the Belarus’s s seizing of a dissident journalist.
“The answer is for the Northern Ireland protocol in its entirety, in its letter and its spirit, to be properly implemented – that is all we asked for,” Mr Raab said.
“The threat to the Northern Ireland Protocol, also the Good Friday Agreement, is coming from the one-sided approach that the EU has taken, and I think that’s a reasonable argument.”
Downing Street has made clear it will shelve the agreed ban on chilled meat exports if necessary, saying: “All options are on the table.”
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