Britain prepares for 'sausage war' as Brexit negotiators meet to discuss arrangements
- Credit: PA
Britain has threatened a "sausage war" as Brexit minister David Frost called for "flexibility" from the EU" ahead of a ban on the export of chilled meat products from the British mainland.
Reports suggest that the UK government is ready to unilaterally extend the "grace period" for products like sausages, mince and chicken nuggets at the end of June, despite warnings from the EU this would trigger tariffs or quotas on British goods under the terms agreed.
European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic has this week warned the EU would act “swiftly, firmly and resolutely” if the UK tried to backtrack on its obligations under the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit agreement.
But Frost has said time was running out to find the “practical solutions” that were needed to enable the protocol to work as it was intended to.
He said the “overriding priority” for both sides must be the preservation of the Northern Ireland peace process and he called on the EU to show the “flexibility” required to achieve the results which “enjoy the confidence of all communities”.
“Businesses in Great Britain are choosing not to sell their goods into Northern Ireland because of burdensome paperwork, medicine manufacturers are threatening to cut vital supplies, and chilled meats from British farmers destined for the Northern Ireland market are at risk of being banned entirely,” he said.
“Further threats of legal action and trade retaliation from the EU won’t make life any easier for the shopper in Strabane who can’t buy their favourite product. Nor will it benefit the small business in Ballymena struggling to source produce from their supplier in Birmingham.
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“What is needed is pragmatism and common sense solutions to resolve the issues as they are before us. This work is important. And it is ever more urgent."
The prime minister’s official spokesman has refused to be drawn on what steps the government would take if there was no agreement by the end of June and insisted there was no justification for barring chilled meats from Northern Irish shops.
“Any ban would be contrary to the aims of the protocol and the interests of the people of Northern Ireland,” the spokesman said.
Earlier in the day, environment secretary George Eustice dismissed the idea of controls on the movement of chilled meats between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland as “bonkers”.
“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,” he told LBC.
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