Swords out as the G7 nations bicker on the Cornish coast

Not even the deft hand of royalty can help Boris Johnson achieve unity at summit

Turning to a unifying figure as it hosted a landmark international summit, the UK government asked Queen Elizabeth II to help with the G7.

The 91-year-old head of state put some real steel into the images from Cornwall.

Taking a sword from the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall at a charity gathering, the queen plunged the blade through the icing of a cake made to mark the occasion.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson may be wishing for such panache as he seeks to establish Global Britain as leader of the wealthy nations of the G7 in global affairs.

Instead, he found himself in parry and thrust with the Europeans at the meeting as the issue of Brexit and Northern Ireland bogged down his efforts.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel put Mr Johnson on the spot at the traditional G7 family photo call when she nudged him to set the pace for the group.

"You are the leader," she told the dithering Mr Johnson.

He was soon griping that his efforts weren't panning out as he had hoped.

"I've talked to some of our friends here today, who do seem to misunderstand that the UK is a single country, a single territory," he complained as he explained the bad blood over the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit deal.

"I just need to get that into their heads."

The G7 is not supposed to be about all this. It is designed to shine a light on the big issues facing the world and how the richest nations are tackling them.

US President Joe Biden hoped to draw a line under the Donald Trump era with a display of unity.

It is not only Brexit where there is discord. Achieving a consensus behind the strong US position on China has not been taken for granted.

Hugs for Mr Biden from French President Emmanuel Macron may not make up for foot dragging on the summit agenda.

The coastal towns of Cornwall have welcomed the global attention of a summit that is a rare example of face-to-face contact between leaders.

That is both because of the temporary fillip to the local economy and exposure in front of the world cameras.

On the streets of the towns hosting the summit, there is appreciation of the climate protesters. The related but distinct cry to save the oceans is something that registers in these coastal communities.

A flotilla of kayaks and surfboards in Falmouth Harbour to make the point that the sea is worth protecting was well supported from the shore.

When hundreds of sympathisers of the Tigrayan cause walk down the streets, there is respectful engagement.

The charity Oxfam commandeered a beach for its messages on vaccine access with papier mache-clad models posing for photographs from deck chairs.

Cornwall's beaches have set the mood for the summit.

Another image of Mr Johnson provided a manifestation of his labours.

In the dawn gloom, knowing that television cameras were perched on a nearby ridge, Mr Johnson went for a run on Saturday.

Unfortunately for him, the going was heavy and the cameras picked up his slow, heaving progress.

Within an hour he was headed to his meetings with the Europeans. Elbow bumps as greetings were more jarring than binding and mood in the conference suites was heavy, too.