Britain and EU declare eleventh hour truce over Brexit sausage trade ban

Britain and Brussels have declared a truce in the Brexit sausage war.

A deal to delay a ban on chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland was announced less than nine hours before a block was due to come into force.

The grace period was extended until the end of September, giving negotiators another three months to hammer out a lasting solution.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost said: “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 agri-food 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.”

Lord Frost confirmed that there would be a grace period on the ban on exports of chilled meats between Britain and Northern Ireland
Lord Frost confirmed that there would be a grace period on the ban on exports of chilled meats between Britain and Northern Ireland

No10 said: “The arrangements for the extension are largely the same as those agreed in December.”

It said that “businesses will be given time and support to put the arrangements in place”.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said: “I have repeatedly stated that there are quite a few gaps in the UK’s implementation of the Protocol.

“At the same time we are aware of a number of challenges in the implementation and therefore today the Commission has tabled a package of measures to address the most pressing issues.”

He said the EU “continue to seek creative solutions in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland”.

But he warned: “We are not issuing a blank cheque. This solution is of temporary nature in which strong conditions are attached.”

Calling on the UK to “engage constructively on the broader agreement”, he demanded “goodwill and positive energy from both sides” to reach a lasting solution.

He added: “This rolling over the grace period doesn’t give the predictability and stability to businesses in Northern Ireland.”

The UK Government had threatened to unilaterally extend the grace period – a move which would have triggered retaliatory action from the EU in the trade conflict dubbed the “sausage war”, which flared at the G7 summit in Cornwall last month.

The dispute stems from the Northern Ireland Protocol Boris Johnson signed with the EU as part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

Unionists and loyalists in the province hate the deal because it created a trade border down the Irish Sea – despite the Prime Minister insisting he would prevent the move.

In effect, Northern Ireland remains part of the EU’s customs rules – meaning checks on goods imported from mainland Britain.

Lord Frost said the row was “a very clear sign that the Protocol has to be operated in a pragmatic and proportionate way”.

He added: “The chilled meats issue is only one of a very large number of problems with the way the Protocol is currently operating, and solutions need to be found with the EU to ensure it delivers on its original aims: to protect the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, and protect the EU’s single market for goods. We look to work energetically with the EU to do so.”

Earlier, a High Court judge in Belfast threw out legal challenges against the lawfulness of the Protocol. Mr Justice Colton rejected arguments the trading arrangements breached the terms of the 1800 Acts of Union and the 1998 legislation that underpins the Good Friday Peace Agreement.

He ruled said the EU Withdrawal Act effectively overrode the provisions of the 200-year old law.

In the Commons, DUP MP Ian Paisley urged the PM to “reverse the mistakes” made in the agreement with Brussels.

He demanded Mr Johnson have “the will to now finish this job, to reverse the mistakes of the Northern Ireland Protocol, to seize the moment and defend the Union, and to unilaterally fix once and for all and put Northern Ireland out of its commercial, social and political misery”.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson claimed: “Nothing will affect the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, and we will make sure that we uphold that.”

He added: “The best thing the EU can do is to make sure we remove all the problems that are currently associated with their application of the Protocol – the ban on chilled meats, the restriction on the circulation of cancer drugs, the fact that 20% of all the customs checks carried out around the whole of the EU are carried out in Northern Ireland.”


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