A deal has been reached to avoid a “sausage war” with the European Union over the shipment of chilled meats from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
A grace period allowing the continued supply of chilled meats across the Irish Sea has been extended until September 30.
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 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.”
A potential prohibition on chilled meats is one result of Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, which has created a series of economic barriers on Irish Sea trade.
The protocol is aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods.
Shipments of chilled meats from third countries into the single market are banned – a prohibition that will eventually cover the rest of the UK unless a lasting solution is found.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, welcomed the agreement but said there were still bigger issues to resolve.
He said: “While it is good to see the EU and the UK cooperating on this issue and reaching agreement, this is, in trade terms, a peripheral matter.
“The most pressing issue is the fate of the thousands of food products moving daily from GB to NI, which will be subject to extensive controls when that grace period ends in October.
“We are no closer to a decision by both sides on this.
“There is a frustration felt across business. We can see the technical solutions that are possible, such as a trusted trader scheme, yet there does not seem to be the political will to deliver them.
“We need both sides to live up to their commitments and find a pragmatic solution to ensure NI consumers continue to get access to both the choice and affordability in the food they need. Yet again the clock is ticking.”