Brexit Britain WINS sausage row as EU to cave and agree to Lord Frosts demands

Northern Ireland protocol ‘not the problem’ says EU ambassador

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Brussels is poised to approve a requested extension to the grace period on chilled meats as part of the Northern Ireland protocol. The post-Brexit trading arrangements have kept Northern Ireland in the EU single market and customs union despite the UK’s departure from the bloc, leading to checks on certain goods coming from the rest of the UK.

But this has led to tensions from Unionist politicians at Stormont who say the Protocol, implemented as part of the Withdrawal Agreement, creates a border in the Irish Sea.

Restrictions are due to come into force on the export of meat products which includes sausages and beef from June 30, but the three-month extension would last until September 30.

Under an offer from Brussels, this publication understands, the EU would ask for reassurances from the UK it would ensure the single market is protected in Northern Ireland.

As well as this, Brussels is also expected to ask the UK to thoroughly cooperate on developing a long term solution to the issue of food consignments leaving Britain for Northern Ireland.

Brussels sources told the Express there was “positive mood music” coming from the Commission during talks following the UK Government’s letter requesting the extension last week.

EU Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic also addressed EU member state diplomats during a meeting today.

Downing Street said that finer details were still being discussed between the UK and the European Union as part of talks about the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Asked whether Boris Johnson was optimistic about an extension, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re discussing this with our EU counterparts currently.

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“There is no further update and that work is ongoing. We do want to find a solution.”

The No 10 spokesman said the Government had not received a response “as yet” to its letter requesting a continuation of the grace period.

But a UK Government source added: “We are very confident the EU will cave and accept our request.”

Addressing MPs on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Lord Frost said: “We have put in our proposal to extend the grace period on chilled meats which expires very soon and I know both sides are thinking very actively about that.

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“I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that nothing is happening.

“Quite a lot is happening, in one or two areas there is engagement, in other areas it’s more difficult.”

Stormont politicians from DUP and Sinn Fein today clashed over the future of the Protocol as the prospect of power-sharing at the Northern Assembly hangs in the balance.

Outgoing DUP leader Edwin Poots expressed fears of serious loyalist paramilitary violence in Northern Ireland this summer if Irish Sea trade barriers are not removed.

Mr Poots, who was ousted in an internal party revolt last week, also said he would have been prepared to collapse the powersharing institutions at Stormont next month if changes were not secured to the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol.

However, the Lagan Valley MLA, who was forced to quit after just three weeks in the job, conceded that if there was a snap Assembly election – a consequence of collapsing Stormont – Sinn Fein would currently be likely to displace the DUP as the largest party.

 

But Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said any suggestion of abolishing the Northern Ireland Protocol is “not grounded in reality”.

Giving a keynote address to party members in a Belfast hotel, Mrs McDonald said the DUP’s stance on the post Brexit trading arrangements was “not in step with broad public opinion including many within wider unionism”.

“Brexit and Brexiteers sought to isolate the north from the rest of Europe against the democratic wishes of a majority of the people,” she said.

“The DUP will be making another political error if they seek to endanger the political stability of the institutions over the consequences of the outworking of their Brexit policy.”

It comes as Peers on the UK House of Lords Sub-Committee on the Protocol on Ireland met Irish politicians on the Oireachtas EU Affairs Committee.

The Committee examined the impact of the Protocol during a crunch evidence session today.

Lord Jay of Ewelme and colleagues; Lord Caine, Baroness Goudie, Lord Hain, Baroness O’Loan and Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick attended the meeting.

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