Emmanuel Macron has raised eyebrows by being ‘all over’ Joe Biden at the G7 summit in defiance of social distancing rules.
The French president put on a demonstrative display as the leaders arrived at the gathering in Cornwall, draping his arm around Mr Biden and whispering in his ear as they walked on the beach.
Diplomats were taken aback by Mr Macron’s determined cosying up, which appeared to fly in the face of safety etiquette. ‘He was all over him,’ said one.
The performance was particularly incongruous as Boris Johnson and wife Carrie had been careful to keep their distance during the meet-and-greet session.
Mr Johnson, who notoriously boasted he was still shaking hands with everyone in the early stages of the pandemic, appeared to remind himself not to get too close, saying ‘Elbows!’
The leaders also carefully maintained social distancing as they posed for the traditional family photograph.
But as Mr Johnson led the way inside the summit venue, Mr Macron took the opportunity to throw his arm around Mr Biden’s shoulders and begin an animated discussion.
Mr Biden – who has had two jabs of the Pfizer vaccine – seemed unperturbed by Mr Macron getting up close and personal.
Mr Macron cosied up to US president Joe Biden despite social distancing rules as the summit kicked off yesterday
As Mr Johnson led the way inside the summit venue, Mr Macron took the opportunity to throw his arm around Mr Biden’s shoulders and begin an animated discussion
Mr Biden – who has had two jabs of the Pfizer vaccine – seemed unperturbed by Mr Macron getting up close and personal
G7 leaders carefully maintained social distancing as they posed for the traditional family photograph, before Mr Macron made a beeline for Mr Biden
Boris Johnson held talks with Emmanuel Macron at the G7 summit this morning. He is due to meet Angela Merkel and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen later
On the eve of the Carbis Bay gathering Mr Macron vowed to veto any overhaul of the terms, saying the idea is ‘not serious’
Mr Johnson and Mr Macron were expected to trade blows over the Northern Ireland protocol during their meeting today
Mr Johnson and German Chancellor Mrs Merkel also met for a bilateral at the summit in Cornwall this morning
The PM got in the mood for the potentially explosive encounter with Mr Macron by swimming in Carbis Bay this morning
The premier also went for a jog as he tries to keep his health kick going during the gathering of world leaders this weekend
How sausages sparked a cold meat war between the UK and EU
The ‘sausage war’ row is the latest front in the ongoing stand-off between Britain and the European Union over Northern Ireland.
When Boris Johnson agreed a Brexit deal with Brussels to make Brexit happen it included the Northern Ireland Protocol.
This is a complex trade agreement that tries to deal with the fact that Ulster is the only part of the UK with an EU land border, with Ireland.
The new arrangements have caused some disruption to trade since the start of the year as firms have struggled with new processes and administration.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, which ended decades of sectarian violence in Ulster, the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland must remain ‘soft’, ie no ‘hard’ border posts with checks on traffic.
The NIP, which was signed off by both sides, effectively keeps Northern Ireland in the European single market for goods in order to avoid a hard border with Ireland.
Despite Mr Johnson’s claims to the contrary, it has meant erecting a trade barrier in the Irish Sea for goods crossing from Great Britain, which have to face customs checks before entering Northern Ireland – even if they are not being taken into the Republic.
A six-month ‘grace period’ for these checks was agreed to allow the infrastructure to be put in place, which runs out at the end of June.
But the checks have infuriated the loyalist community in Northern Ireland, who are outraged at the internal UK free market is being interrupted.
Earlier this year, armed loyalist groups said they were temporarily withdrawing support for the 1998 peace agreement due to concerns over the Brexit deal.
The groups said they believed Britain, Ireland and the EU had breached their commitments to the peace deal.
The UK Government has not ruled out unilaterally extending the check-free period after June 30, but that has angered the EU, which says that the UK must honour the deal it signed up to less than six months ago.
Brussels has threatened to launch a trade war against Britain if it fails to implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit ‘divorce’ settlement which Mr Johnson signed.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic last said patience with the UK was wearing ‘very, very thin’ after talks in London ended in deadlock.
Ministers today warned the EU they will not be allowed to ‘threaten the integrity’ of the UK as Boris Johnson faces off with leaders at the G7 in Cornwall.
The PM has signalled a tough line against the ‘excessively burdensome’ approach from Brussels to the Northern Ireland protocol as he holds talks with Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen.
Ministers fear traders face a complete ban on sausage exports when a ‘grace period’ on the Brexit deal expires at the end of this month.
But on the eve of the Carbis Bay gathering Mr Macron vowed to veto any overhaul of the terms, saying the idea is ‘not serious’.
After months of impasse in negotiations, Mr Johnson is now ready to extend the grace period within days, probably until at least the end of the year unless there is a breakthrough.
Whitehall sources said he believes he has ‘no alternative’ but to intervene to block Brussels rules that would ban firms in Great Britain sending chilled meat products to Ulster.
He prepared for the showdown with EU counterparts by going for a swim near the luxurious hotel where the summit is happening.
Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘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 in which case I am afraid we will not allow the integrity of the UK to be threatened.’
The source added: ‘Given the EU’s position on this I cannot see any alternative to taking unilateral action.’ The PM’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson would rather see a negotiated settlement, but warned that ‘all options are on the table’.
No 10 also rejected an EU ‘compromise’ proposal for Britain to accept ongoing alignment with Brussels rules on the grounds it would make it impossible to strike ambitious trade deals.
European leaders have warned this week that unilateral action would lead to retaliatory measures, including tariffs and quotas. T
he row is set to dominate the PM’s meetings with Mr Macron, Mrs Merkel and Mrs von der Leyen today.
The three leaders appeared to be co-ordinating their response yesterday when they held an impromptu get-together with Italian PM Mario Draghi and European Council chief Charles Michel at the Carbis Bay resort where the summit is being held.
Mr Macron tweeted in a pointed remark: ‘As always, the same union, the same determination to act, the same enthusiasm.’
He has already been accused of ‘posturing’ after warning the UK that ‘nothing is renegotiable’.
But last night there were signs the EU was backing down over its threats to escalate the crisis.
Irish broadcaster RTE quoted an EU source suggesting the bloc could now take a softly-softly approach for fear of falling into the ‘trap’ of inflaming tensions in the Province as the Unionist ‘marching season’ reaches its climax.
The source said: ‘The EU doesn’t want to get sucked into the stupid sausage war type narrative, where we would be seen to be coming on heavy because of things like chilled meat, sausages etc.’
EU leaders had been hoping that US President Joe Biden would pressure the PM to back down in order to avoid increasing tensions in Northern Ireland.
In an extraordinary move, it emerged before the summit that American diplomats had issued a ‘demarche’ against the UK – a rarely-used formal rebuke to an ally over policy.
However, the White House then humiliatingly backed off a public confrontation amid anger from the government and Brexiteers.
No 10 said the US President was in ‘complete harmony’ with the PM after talks on Thursday.
Mr Johnson yesterday revealed he had given Mr Biden details of the disproportionate checks being imposed by the EU on goods traded from Britain to Northern Ireland.
He told the BBC: ‘Twenty per cent of the checks conducted across the whole of the perimeter of the EU are now done in Northern Ireland, three times as many as happen in Rotterdam.’
He added: ‘There are ways of enforcing the protocol, ways of making it work that may be excessively burdensome.’
The PM insisted it would be possible to ‘sort out’ the issues.
But officials are pessimistic about an immediate breakthrough.
The dispute arises out of provisions in the Brexit deal that leave Northern Ireland within the EU’s single market for goods.
Mr Johnson accuses Brussels of taking a ‘purist’ approach to the deal and applying it to all goods crossing the Irish Sea, regardless of whether or not they are set to enter the EU.
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.
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.
At the end of the day, the leaders attending the event – India’s Narendra Modi will only participate remotely because of the coronavirus crisis in his country – will relax with a barbecue on the beach cooked by Simon Stallard, chef at the Hidden Hut in Portscatho.
They will be served sirloin and lobster and can then enjoy hot buttered rum and toasted marshmallows around fire pits on the beach.
Sea shanty group Du Hag Owr will provide the musical accompaniment to the event.
Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cambridge and US first lady Jill Biden have written a joint article on the importance of early childhood, following their visit to a primary school in Cornwall, where the G7 is taking place.
The two women met for the first time on Friday at Connor Downs Academy in Hayle, where they took part in a round-table discussion with experts on the importance of the early years of childhood for future outcomes.
In the article, published by CNN, they say there must be a fundamental shift in how the UK and US approach the earliest years of life.
‘If we care about how children perform at school, how they succeed in their careers when they are older, and about their lifelong mental and physical health, then we have to care about how we are nurturing their brains, their experiences and relationships in the early years before school,’ they write.
Ursula von der Leyen (left with Mr Macron and EU council chief Charles Michel in Cornwall yesterday) are also holding talks with Mr Johnson
World leaders will join forces in bid to stop any new pandemic within 100 days: G7 nations vow to slash time taken to develop and license vaccines
World leaders will commit today to work together to crush future pandemics within 100 days.
The G7 nations will sign what will be known as the Carbis Bay Declaration, after the Cornish resort where the summit is being held.
As part of the strategy, Britain will build a £25million animal vaccine centre to halt the spread of new diseases and therefore prevent them from jumping to humans.
About three-quarters of new human diseases are thought to have started in animals.
The Animal Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre at Pirbright in Surrey will be backed by £10million from the Government and £14.5million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The centre will draw on the existing Pirbright Institute’s world-leading expertise in preventing and controlling the spread of viruses in order to accelerate the delivery of vaccines for livestock diseases.
Melinda French Gates, as she is now known after separating from the Microsoft founder, and the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance will present findings from their work on the pandemic preparedness partnership to the G7 leaders today.
The Carbis Bay Declaration will incorporate the recommendations of their findings, which highlight how the first 100 days after the identification of an epidemic threat are crucial to changing its course and preventing it from becoming a pandemic.
The G7 nations – the UK, US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany and Italy – will commit to measures aimed at slashing the time taken to develop and license vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days.
The Animal Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre at Pirbright in Surrey will be backed by £10million from the Government and £14.5million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
The G7 nations will sign what will be known as the Carbis Bay Declaration, after the Cornish resort where the summit is being held
They will also promise to reinforce global surveillance networks and support reforming and strengthening the World Health Organisation.
Boris Johnson said last night: ‘To truly defeat coronavirus and recover we need to prevent a pandemic like this from ever happening again.
‘That means learning lessons from the last 18 months and doing it differently next time around. I am proud that for the first time today the world’s leading democracies have come together to make sure that never again will we be caught unawares.’
Covid is thought to have spread to humans from bats, although some now believe it might have escaped from a laboratory in China.