Britain and Brussels FINALLY agree a truce to avoid ‘sausage wars’ over chilled meat exports to Northern Ireland – but it is only temporary as a permanent fix to post-Brexit border problems remains elusive
- UK and the EU have agreed a truce to avoid a ‘sausage war’ over exports to NI
- But the deal between the two sides only temporary and will last for three months
- UK and Brussels will now resume efforts to find permanent fix to border problem
Britain and Brussels have agreed to a truce to avoid a ‘sausage war’ over exports of chilled meats to Northern Ireland – but it is only temporary.
The UK and the EU announced this afternoon that a deal has been done to ensure sausages and other products can still be sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office minister who is responsible for Brexit matters, said a grace period on the exports will be extended to September 30 – a move which he described as a ‘sensible’ step.
But the two sides remain deadlocked on how to permanently fix post-Brexit border problems in Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost said the extension of the grace period is a ‘positive first step but we still need to agree a permanent solution’.
Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office minister, said a grace period on the exports will be extended to September 30, describing this as a ‘sensible’ step.
The grace period allowing chilled meats to cross the Irish Sea was due to expire tonight after months of arguments about how to improve the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The protocol was agreed to as part of the Brexit divorce deal but it has caused significant disruption to trade and inflamed community tensions since it was rolled out.
It was designed to avoid a hard border with Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
But unionists are demanding it be scrapped because it creates a trade barrier in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The prohibition on chilled meats is just one element of the protocol, with shipments of chilled meats from all third countries into the EU single market banned.
Boris Johnson had threatened to unilaterally extend the grace period, something which would have triggered retaliatory action from the EU – a trade conflict which has been dubbed the ‘sausage war’.
Lord Frost said in a statement: ‘We are pleased we have been able to agree a sensible extension on chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland – one that does not require rules in the rest of the UK to align with future changes in EU agrifood rules.
‘This is a positive first step but we still need to agree a permanent solution – Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom and its consumers should be able to enjoy products they have bought from Great Britain for years.
‘This is a very clear sign that the Protocol has to be operated in a pragmatic and proportionate way.’
Lord Frost said the chilled meats issue ‘is only one of a very large number of problems with the way the protocol is currently operating’.
He said that ‘solutions need to be found’ which ‘protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, and protect the EU’s single market for goods’.
If an extension had not been agreed then chilled meat exports from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would technically have been banned.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said earlier this week that he was confident a solution could be found on the chilled meats issue
The extension means that Northern Ireland consumers will be able to continue to buy chilled meat products from Great Britain.
The UK Government remains frustrated at the EU’s approach to fixing the protocol while Brussels is adamant that Britain knew what it was agreeing to when it signed the original Brexit divorce deal.
The UK Government said it had submitted ‘a dozen papers’ to the European Commission setting out how various protocol-related issues could be resolved.
Ministers have previously complained that Brussels has not properly engaged with the proposals.
Maros Sefcovic said the package of measures showed a willingness to find lasting solutions to the issues caused by Brexit in Northern Ireland.
The European Commission vice-president said: ‘On our side there is goodwill, we see it as positive momentum and we hope it will be matched by the same goodwill and creativity on the UK side.
‘Because I think that we can resolve all the problems on the table only if we would act jointly.’
Labour’s Baroness Jenny Chapman, shadow minister for task force Europe, said: ‘An extension to the chilled meats grace period is welcome. Nobody wants to see British products being blocked from entering Northern Ireland. This would be totally unnecessary and only add to current tensions.
‘However, Boris Johnson must not waste this extension, the Government must stop playing games and instead use this period to come up with a long-term solution to the flaws in the deal he agreed with the EU.
‘It is obvious the UK and EU need to get their heads together in the coming weeks and work out a veterinary standards agreement that will solve this issue, bring long term assurances to the people of Northern Ireland and benefit food exporters across the UK.’