Downing Street has defended Boris Johnson’s beach barbecue at the G7 summit, as photos of the world leaders mingling without social distancing sparked anger among hospitality chiefs.

The Prime Minister and his wife Carrie hosted the informal gathering in the late evening sun on Saturday on wooden decking above the sands of Carbis Bay.

Images emerged of the senior politicians and their spouses enjoying an aerial acrobatics display by the Red Arrows, before standing around chatting in loose groups.

As the night wore on, waiters wearing masks circulated with trays of food, while two dozen of the event attendees were seen bunching together closely in a group, without wearing face coverings or attempting to keep their distance from each other.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman weighed in on Sunday morning to defend the barbecue, after critics argued that the lack of social distancing at the event clashed with the message of caution that Number 10 has directed at the rest of the country, amid concerns about the spread of the delta variant.

Business owners in the hospitality sector were particularly incensed that Mr Johnson hosted such an event right before he is expected to delay the final stage of unlocking for several weeks. He will announce his decision on step four of the roadmap out of restrictions on Monday evening.

Restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes have struggled to return to profit, or in many cases open at all, while social distancing rules remain in place and they are set to be among the worst hit by a delay to the measures being scrapped.

Hugh Osmond, founder of Punch Taverns and former director of Pizza Express, expressed anger over the scenes at the Carbis Bay barbecue.  

“I hope that the global elites enjoying life in their ivory towers spare a thought for the thousands of individuals and businesses that are doing their best to create jobs, to generate tax revenues for the public services we all rely on, and to keep their countries running,” he told The Telegraph.

Adam Brooks, a landlord of two pubs in Essex, said on Twitter: “If this was a pub’s beer garden tomorrow, a council somewhere would hit them with a breach of restrictions… But it’s the G7 BBQ.. That’s ok. #EnoughIsEnough.”

Mr Johnson’s spokesman told reporters in Cornwall on Sunday: “The event last night was done in an entirely Covid-secure way and within the existing rules… We are Covid-secure at the summit, including testing at events held outside.”

World leaders have been labelled as hypocrites for attending outdoor events with food and drink when such activities are forbidden under current rules in the UK for weddings

Credit: Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing St 

He added: “This was an informal gathering for the G7 leaders and rightly it was held in private, but you can see it was a relaxed atmosphere, and it gave the leaders a chance to discuss outside of a formal setting.”

The spokesman confirmed that the event did not exceed the cap of 30 people that is applied to attendees at weddings.

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, was also challenged about the photos of the leaders enjoying themselves, and mixing without masks or social distancing.

He told Sky News: “It is outside, it’s very well ventilated on the beach… I think we’ve gone well beyond and above in making sure this is Covid secure… That is serious business they are engaged in and not just the leisure activities on the beach.” 

From a diplomatic perspective, the Government appeared to view the event as a success. After a day of intense group discussions and a whirlwind of bilateral talks, the beach-side party allowed G7 leaders to unwind in traditional Cornish fashion.

The evening kicked off with an aerial acrobatics display from the Red Arrows, who soared over the sea in their V formation with their iconic red, white and blue smoke trails.

“What a sight! Thank you to the incredible RAF Red Arrows for an amazing show,” the Prime Minister tweeted afterwards.

Leaders of the G7 watch the Red Arrows fly past on Saturday evening

Credit: Simon Dawson / No10 Downing Stre 

In the wake of a febrile meeting with Emmanuel Macron early that morning over the Northern Ireland Protocol, Mr Johnson was seen looking genial standing alongside the French president just ahead of sunset.

The pair conversed with one of the elite RAF pilots, as Mr Johnson held a pint of Tribute pale ale.

Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, was also seen drinking a pint of beer during the evening, while US First Lady Jill Biden was photographed holding a champagne flute and Ursual von der Leyen clutched a cocktail-style bowl glass.

The evening meal was cooked by local chef Simon Stallard who runs the kitchen at Hidden Hut in Portscatho.

He served scallops, Curgurrell crab claws and Portscatho mackerel canapés to start, followed by seared and smokey Moorland sirloin, Newlyn lobster and scorched leeks for the main course.