US President Joe Biden had a “candid” word with Boris Johnson “in private” over the UK’s bitter stand-off with Brussels over post-Brexit trading rules in Northern Ireland, it has emerged.
The White House confirmed Mr Biden – who has spoken of his pride in his Irish roots – raised the ‘sausage wars’ row with the PM after the UK repeatedly played down reports that the spat was overshadowing the G7 summit in Cornwall.
But answering questions from American reporters, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Mr Biden had underlined his views with “deep sincerity” to the PM.
“All I’m going to say: they did discuss this issue. They had a candid discussion of it in private,” Mr Sullivan said.
“The president naturally, and with deep sincerity, encouraged the Prime Minister to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the progress made under it.
“The specifics beyond that, I’m not going to get into.”
Mr Sullivan would not be drawn on whether the president had linked the issue to a free trade deal with the UK and did not specify when the conversation took place.
The two leaders held a bilateral meeting on Thursday before the main summit began and afterwards Mr Johnson denied there were major differences between them.
The White House’s disclosure comes after the diplomatic row between London and Brussels saw Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accuse French President Emmanuel Macron and other senior EU figures of talking about Northern Ireland “as if it was some kind of different country to the UK”.
At his closing news conference, Mr Macron strongly denied that he had ever questioned British sovereignty but insisted the UK must honour the Brexit deal Mr Johnson signed up to.
“On this topic, everyone should return to reason, and my wish is we succeed, collectively, to put in motion what we all decided upon together several months ago,” he said.
“We should do it in all calm and with mutual respect, and I think that polemics every morning are not helpful.”
The continuing row over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the agreement – intended to protect the peace process by ensuring there is no return to a hard border with the Republic – overshadowed much of the summit.
Mr Johnson repeated his warning that he could unilaterally delay the latest checks on chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland – due to come into force at the end of the month – unless there was a resolution to the dispute.
The EU has previous said that its patience is wearing “very, very thin” and had threatened to launch a trade war unless the UK abides by its treaty obligations.