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Downing Street has defended Boris Johnson's decision to hold a crowded beach barbecue for world leaders – just as he prepares to delay the end of lockdown rules.

No10 insisted "numbers were below 30" at the gathering last night, despite footage appearing to show around 40 people in the area including security and waiting staff.

Most outdoor social gatherings are still limited to 30 people in England under step three of the Prime Minister's roadmap.

Step four was due to remove that limit from June 21. But tomorrow night the PM is expected to announce that date has been delayed by up to four weeks.

Press were banned from the private barbecue last night, part of the G7 summit in Cornwall, and the only photos came from No10's own photographers.

This shot from the BBC's footage appears to show around 40 people, including security and waiting staff

But the BBC caught long-lens footage of the shindig, where world leaders watched a Red Arrows flypast before drinking buttered rum, toasting marshmallows on a fire pit and listening to sea shanties.

They also scoffed a “surf-and-turf” feast of steak and lobster while guzzling Cornish sparkling wine, German riesling, Australian shiraz, Cornish beer and Hedge Row Fizz cocktails.

The Mirror counted roughly 40 people in shot in the BBC's footage, including security and waiting staff.

The leaders watching the Red Arrows display at last night's barbecue

The current law in England says “no person may participate” in an outdoor gathering of more than 30 people to restrict the spread of Covid.

Weddings are also still limited to 30 guests, to the anger of the struggling industry.

Separately, guidance – which is not the law – suggests people should stay socially distanced from those not in their household or bubble.

However, there are exemptions to the 30-person limit for work gatherings, and a 'ring of steel' has been erected around the summit with regular Covid tests.

Asked about the barbecue today, Boris Johnson's spokesman said: "The event last night was done in an entirely Covid-secure way within the existing rules.

Boris Johnson speaking to Emmanuel Macron at the private BBQ in a photo released by his PR operation
(Image: Andrew Parsons / No10 Downing Street)

"Those attending the summit had a daily testing regime and the event was held outside.

"This was an informal gathering of the G7 leaders and rightly it is held in private … but you can see it was a relaxed atmosphere and gave the leaders a chance to discuss outside of a formal setting."

Asked how many people attended, he said: “The numbers were below 30 at the barbecue yesterday.”

The dinner was cooked by Simon Stallard, from the Hidden Hut in Portscatho, and included beef, lobster and other local fish.

Today is the final day of the G7 summit in Cornwall, where Boris Johnson today enjoyed an early-morning swim caught on camera by the BBC.

The Prime Minister popped out for an early morning swim today

The Prime Minister hurried down to the water in Carbis Bay before swimming a rapid front crawl through the surf.

He was later spotted walking along the beach with his new wife Carrie Johnson, a towel around his neck.

He had also been swimming at the G7 summit earlier in the week – thought Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted snubbing the beach for a pool instead.

He was seen doing a rapid front crawl in the surf

Mr Johnson later walked back along the beach with Carrie Symonds

It came as the Foreign Secretary deepened the rift with Brussels over the trading arrangements which apply to Northern Ireland under the Brexit deal – which Boris Johnson signed himself.

Dominic Raab complained the French President's actions were "offensive" and the EU should "show some respect".

His comments came after Emmanuel Macron reportedly suggested Northern Ireland was not part of the UK during his talks with Boris Johnson in the margins of the G7 summit.

"What we cannot have is the continuing disruption of trade and effectively try to change the status of Northern Ireland, contrary to the consent and wishes of the people, which is not just contrary to the Northern Ireland Protocol but also to the Belfast Agreement," 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.

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"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."

The Prime Minister will hold a press conference on Sunday afternoon at the conclusion of a gathering which has seen him clash with European Union leaders.

Mr Johnson has threatened to unilaterally delay the imposition of checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland in protest at the way in which the deal he agreed is being implemented.

The Prime Minister met French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel in the margins of the summit on Saturday.

Mr Johnson appeared frustrated at the way the talks had gone, saying: "I've talked to some of our friends here today who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country and a single territory.

"I think they just need to get that into their heads."fsdfgsfg