Fears of a ‘sausage war’ on Brexit continue as UK-EU talks fail to break deadlock in Northern Ireland
Talks between UK Brexit Minister David Frost and European Commission (EC) Vice-President Maros Sefcovic failed to break the deadlock between the two sides as the clash over trade in Ireland from North (NI) continues.
Lord Frost and his EU counterpart Sefcovic concluded the discussion in London on Wednesday without any sign of progress that would ease tensions.
The Brexit Minister said there was “no breakthrough or disruption” with blocking the implementation of the NI protocol, including the processing of sausages and chilled meats, following “frank and honest “.
“What the EU insists on is that we should apply the protocol in an extremely purist manner,” said Frost. “The reality is that this is a very balanced document designed to support the peace process and deal with very sensitive politics in Northern Ireland.”
Discussions between the two will continue. Frost did not rule out the UK triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, but said there was a “range of options” under consideration.
Article 16 of the protocol is a safeguard clause which gives the UK and the EU unilateral powers to take action if the application of the protocol raises serious economic, societal or environmental problems “which are likely to persist or divert trade ”.
“What we really need to do now is urgently find solutions that support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the Northern Ireland peace process and get things back to normal,” he said. said Frost.
The UK and the EU have been returning to Northern Ireland since Britain left the bloc earlier in January. Relations have hardened in recent days after the EU threatened to halt sausage sales to NI.
The NI protocol – part of the UK-EU deal designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland – keeps the territory in the EU’s single market for goods, which means new rules and restrictions on trade between Great Britain and NI.
The UK has been reluctant to implement these controls. The government has said it will not unilaterally enforce the EU-mandated controls in NI later this year on products such as meat, despite its agreement in the Brexit deal.
As a result, Brussels threatened with trade sanctions – a hardening of its position that has been called a “sausage war” in the press. Sefcovic said the bloc would act “swiftly, firmly and decisively to ensure the UK meets its obligations under international law” if Britain decides to delay checks on chilled meats on June 30.
Lord Frost called on the EU to use “pragmatism and common sense” to solve the problem. He warned the EU that time was “running out” to reach an agreement before Wednesday’s meeting.
“Further threats of legal action and trade retaliation from the EU will not make life easier for Strabane buyers who cannot purchase their favorite product,” Frost said ahead of the meeting. “It will also not benefit the small business in Ballymena which is struggling to source from its supplier in Birmingham.”
Former French Minister for European Affairs Nathalie Loiseau, now an MEP, said the EU has the power to impose quotas on British exports if it continues to take unilateral decisions on how the NI protocol is implemented.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly considering delaying enforcement as UK-EU talks stall. Many questions remain unanswered, including checks on animals, goods and medicines, the Telegraph reported. The grace period is due to expire at the end of June.
Brussels has already taken legal action against Britain for violating the terms of the NI protocol. In March, the bloc took legal action after the UK government changed the way the protocol was implemented without the EU’s agreement.
With Lord Frost heading to Cornwall for the G7 summit on Wednesday, the United States could be drawn into the mix. President Joe Biden, who has Irish roots and is also traveling to the UK for the summit, has previously been outspoken on the issue of Ireland and Brexit.
Watch: What is the Northern Ireland Protocol and why are the EU and UK fighting over the sausages?