Sausage wars! Ministers condemn 'nonsensical' Brexit NI trade curbs

Sausage wars! Ministers condemn ‘nonsensical’ Brexit trade curbs stopping British bangers going to Northern Ireland as EU threatens reprisals ahead of crunch meeting on protocol tomorrow

  • The EU has warned of ‘swift and resolute’ response if UK extends grace period 
  • Chilled meats produced in mainland Britain can be sent to NI in grace period 
  • UK extended grace periods on supermarket goods and parcels earlier this year
  • EU launched legal action and accused Britain of violating international law

The EU and the UK are on the brink of ‘sausage wars’ today as ministers slammed ‘nonsensical’ trade curbs on Northern Ireland and Brussels threatened reprisals.  

Environment Secretary George Eustice demanded the bloc takes a less ‘bureaucratic’ stance after the government signalled it is ready to keep ignoring post-Brexit rules preventing imports of goods from the British mainland including chilled meats.    

Maros Sefcovic warned Brussels would react ‘swiftly and resolutely’ if Britain chose to extend the protocol’s grace period, which expires at the end of this month.

The increasingly bitter clashes came ahead of a crunch meeting between Brexit minister Lord Frost and European counterpart Mr Sefcovic tomorrow.

Fears have been mounting that the implementation of the deal agreed by Boris Johnson with the EU are fuelling sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland, with unionists saying the terms must be scrapped.   


Maros Sefcovic (pictured) said Brussels would react ‘swiftly and resolutely’ if Britain chose to extend the grace period in the Northern Ireland Protocol, which expires at the end of this month

Fears have been mounting that the implementation of the deal agreed by Boris Johnson with the EU are fuelling sectarian tensions in Northern Ireland. Pictured, protests in Belfast in April

Earlier this year Britain extended the grace periods on supermarket goods and parcels.

In March the EU hit back, launching legal action and accusing Britain of violating international law.

Mr Sefcovic wrote in the Daily Telegraph that if the UK took further unilateral action the EU ‘will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure that the UK abides by its international law obligations’.

Mr Sefcovic said the current Northern Ireland Protocol was the ‘best solution’ to ‘the type of Brexit that the current UK Government chose’. He added: ‘No one knows it better than Lord Frost himself, then the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator.’

However, Mr Eustice said the EU needed to show more ‘respect’.

‘What you have to bear in mind is that the Protocol always envisaged that both parties would show best endeavours to make the Northern Ireland Protocol work, and that included recognising that Northern Ireland was an integral part of the UK and that you should support the free flow of goods to Northern Ireland,’ he told Sky News.

‘What we really need the EU to do is to respect that part of the Protocol and put in place sensible measures to remove things like the nonsensical ban on selling sausages or chicken nuggets to Northern Ireland – not just requiring paperwork, but actually having an outright ban on some of those goods – that clearly doesn’t make sense.’

He added: ‘We’re committed to making it work but we just need the European Union to engage in that process to iron out those issues.’

Mr Eustice said he had ‘no idea’ why the bloc imposed ‘idiosyncratic’ rules.

‘I suspect it links to some kind of perception that they can’t really trust any country other than an EU country to make sausages,’ he said.

‘I think that’s a nonsense. I think we’ve got a very good sausage industry in this country, we’ve got the highest standards of food hygiene in the world.’

Amid claims that Joe Biden is set to push Boris Johnson to find a way through the impasse when they meet this week, Mr Eustice said he believed the US president would also think the EU is being overly ‘bureaucratic’.

‘I suspect that any US administration would be amazed if you were to say, for instance, that a sausage from Texas couldn’t be sold to California, there would be an outright ban – they really wouldn’t understand how that could even be contemplated,’ told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Last night sources told the Telegraph there was ‘no world’ in which the Government would accept a situation that meant British sausages could no longer be imported and sold in Northern Ireland.

One UK official said: ‘It is a difficult situation. You look at the current situation in Northern Ireland, in particular with the political calendar, it is coming up to ‘marching season’.

‘It is not exactly coming at a good time to suddenly – at the start of July – happen and people can’t get supplies of chilled meat from Britain.’ 

Ahead of the gathering in Cornwall, Mr Johnson also discussed the issue in a telephone call on Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Downing Street said that the Prime Minister stressed that ‘both the UK and the EU have a responsibility to find solutions to address the issues with the protocol’.

Earlier this year Britain extended the grace periods on supermarket goods and parcels

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