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Sausages being cooked on a barbeque
The 'sausage war' could have seen British products banned from Northern IrelandImage: Fotolia/flashpics

EU, UK agree temporary truce in 'sausage war'

June 30, 2021

The EU had threatened to ban the export of chilled meats from the British mainland to Northern Ireland. But both sides agreed to extend a grace period to keep goods flowing to the province, which is part of the UK.


The EU and the UK agreed on Wednesday to postpone a ban on some meat products being sold in Northern Ireland by three months in the latest twist in a long-running Brexit row.

Downing Street and the European Commission have been at loggerheads for months over rules governing the export of chilled meats from the British mainland.

The extension of a grace period will stop products such as fresh sausages from being banned from supermarket shelves in the province.

British newspapers have described the row as  a "sausage war."

No 'blank cheque' for Britain

But the EU's top Brexit official, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, warned that the UK had not been handed "a blank cheque."

EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic
The EU's Brexit official Maros Sefcovic has threatened punitive tariffs on British goods sent to the bloc's single market unless a permanent agreement is foundImage: Kenzo Tribouillard/Reuters

"This solution is of a temporary nature, in which strong conditions are attached," he told journalists.

David Frost, the British government's Brexit minister, called the compromise a "sensible extension."

"This is a positive first step but we still need to agree on 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," he said.

Britain left the European Union on January 31, 2020, agreeing on a new trade pact with Brussels at the end of 2020 negotiated by Frost and Michel Barnier, who led the EU in Brexit negotiations.

UK PM Boris Johnson signing the Brexit deal
Britain only signed the Brexit free trade deal last year, but its officials have complained the rules governing Northern Ireland are being interpreted too strictlyImage: Leon Neal/Getty Images

But that agreement placed an effective customs border in the Irish Sea, leaving Northern Ireland inside the EU single market and customs union.

It means checks should be implemented on goods being shipped to the province.

It was a way that both negotiating teams agreed upon to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

EU warns UK that solutions needed

EU officials insisted that a key part of the Brexit deal said the checks were needed to protect the bloc's single market. They want the rest of the UK to align food and agriculture rules with EU regulations.

British diplomats on Wednesday once again dismissed those claims, calling on the European Commission to adopt a "risk-based" approach to the issue after violent protests from Unionists earlier this year.

'We are clear that there’s no case whatsoever for preventing chilled meats from Great Britain being sold in Northern Ireland," a senior UK government source told DW.

One EU ambassador warned that Britain would be expected to come up with some concrete solutions before the next deadline expires on September 30.

"We need to see some energy from the UK negotiators, who spend all their time talking to British journalists and not at the negotiating table." the diplomat said while acknowledging that "it might give us some time to solve the issue."

The new arrangement means the meat ban will be postponed until September 30.

It came on the same day that a High Court judge in Belfast ruled that the Northern Ireland protocol, the part of the Brexit deal governing the flow of goods between the British mainland and Northern Ireland, is lawful.

A group of senior Unionist and conservative politicians had brought a lawsuit, arguing that it was unconstitutional and a breach of the 1998 Good Friday peace deal that ended the decades of unrest that became known as The Troubles.

jf/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)