UK and EU set to sign truce to hold off Northern Ireland 'sausage war' trade dispute

Anti NI Protocol sign above a sign for the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) site on Duncrue Street in Belfast, which is one of the sites used when lorries roll off the ferries that is used to perform checks. Picture date: Monday June 28 2021.
Anti NI Protocol sign above a sign for the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) site on Duncrue Street in Belfast, which is one of the sites used when lorries roll off the ferries that is used to perform checks. Picture date: Monday June 28 2021.

The UK and the European Union are set to announce an extension to a grace period allowing their movement across the Irish Sea

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A deal to hold off a post-Brexit ban on sausages and other chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is expected to be announced at the eleventh-hour.

The UK and the European Union are set to announce an extension to a grace period allowing their movement across the Irish Sea on Wednesday – hours before a ban would come into force.

Brussels’ post-Brexit negotiator Maros Sefcovic is scheduled to address the media on Wednesday afternoon, while the UK is expected to issue a statement.

Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) site on Duncrue Street in Belfast, which is one of the sites used when lorries roll off the ferries that is used to perform checks. Picture date: Monday June 28 2021.
Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) site on Duncrue Street in Belfast, which is one of the sites used when lorries roll off the ferries that is used to perform checks. Picture date: Monday June 28 2021.

Downing Street anticipated that a deal to avoid a ban on sausage shipments, which would come into place on Thursday without action, would be reached “on terms which are acceptable to the UK”.

The UK Government had threatened to unilaterally extend the grace period, something which would have triggered retaliatory action from the EU in the trade conflict dubbed the “sausage war”.

A prohibition on chilled meats is one element 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.

Committee Chair, of the Northern Ireland Committee for The Executive Office Colin McGrath (left) with his Parliamentary Assistant Dominic O'Reilly (right) in the Great Hall at Stormont after a virtual committee meeting with EU's chief Brexit negotiator and Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic speaking from Brussels. Picture date: Monday June 28 2021.
Committee Chair, of the Northern Ireland Committee for The Executive Office Colin McGrath (left) with his Parliamentary Assistant Dominic O'Reilly (right) in the Great Hall at Stormont after a virtual committee meeting with EU's chief Brexit negotiator and Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic speaking from Brussels. Picture date: Monday June 28 2021.

Shipments of chilled meats from third countries into the single market are banned – a prohibition which will cover the rest of the UK unless a lasting solution is found.

Mr Sefcovic, a European Commission vice-president, told a Northern Ireland Assembly committee on Monday that he was confident an extension would be granted “that will address both sides’ needs and concerns”.

He said an “obvious” way to remove new Irish Sea trade checks and restrictions on a longer term basis would be for the UK to strike a deal on animal and plant standards that would see London align with Brussels’ agri-food regulations.