Sausage war ceasefire as grace period extended for three months

30 June 2021, 15:31 | Updated: 30 June 2021, 16:14

Lord Frost said the extension was a "positive first step" but a permanent solution needed to be found
Lord Frost said the extension was a "positive first step" but a permanent solution needed to be found. Picture: PA

By Daisy Stephens

Chilled meats from Great Britain can continue to move to Northern Ireland after the UK and the EU agreed to extend a grace period in the so-called ‘sausage war’.

The extension to 30 September means that Northern Ireland consumers will be able to buy chilled meat products from Great Britain, and allows for further discussions to continue on a permanent solution.

“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," said cabinet minister Lord Frost.

“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.

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He added: “This is a very clear sign that the Protocol has to be operated in a pragmatic and proportionate way.

"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.”

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The dispute over chilled meat has been ongoing for weeks.

The 6-month grace period, introduced in December 2020, was designed to allow checks at Northern Irish borders to be gradually phased in.

Originally it was due to come to an end on June 30, at which point the Northern Ireland Protocol would have prevented chilled meats from Great Britain being exported into Northern Ireland.

The extension gives the UK and the EU an additional three months to work on an alternative.

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The extension agreement does not require the rest of the UK to align with any changes in EU agrifood rules during the grace period - there is no dynamic alignment.  

Otherwise, the arrangements for the extension are largely the same as those agreed in December. 

The Government is working through the Joint Committee on longer term sustainable solutions to these issues, recognising that businesses and people in Northern Ireland deserve clarity and certainty on the way forward.

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However, internationalist group Best for Britain said the extension was only a "temporary" solution and said the Government had work to do to find a long-term solution.

"This extension will only provide temporary relief. We need to secure an EU-UK veterinary arrangement as a long term solution," said Naomi Smith, Chief Executive of Best for Britain.

"The only reason the Government would refuse to do this, is if their real goal is to reduce our food and animal welfare standards in order to secure deals with countries like the USA.

"The Government needs to start acting like a global leader, respecting international law, honouring the commitments we make, and rebuilding trust with our closest neighbours and allies."