Brexit: Expert says NI protocol feud may lead to meat shortages
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The Prime Minister told European Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen that rapid progress is needed to cool tensions in the region. There is growing hostility to the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland Protocol to avoid a hard border because of the EU’s bureaucratic approach. In a phone call last night, Mrs von der Leyen hit back and accused Downing Street of not implementing the Brexit divorce and trade deals.
She expressed her “deep concern” that No 10 was apparently rowing back on its previous promises.
The top eurocrat tweeted: “I expressed my deep concern on EU-UK TCA and WA implementation.
“We will discuss how to progress and ensure compliance in the margins of G7.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and the President also spoke about the issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“The Prime Minister set out that the UK is committed to finding practical solutions that protect the aims of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and minimise the impact on the lives of people in Northern Ireland. He underlined the need for quick progress.”
Their call came ahead of a series of EU-UK showdowns in London today.
Brexit minister Lord Frost welcomes his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic for the first meeting of the post-Brexit Partnership Council and the divorce deal’s Joint Committee.
They are set to discuss the rows over Northern Ireland, fishing rights and citizens’ rights.
Ahead of the meeting, Brussels was ordered to drop “bonkers plans” to impose a sausage ban on Northern Ireland that could spark an EU-UK trade war.
Environment Secretary George Justice lashed out at the “nonsensical” demand and hinted the PM would use the G7 to recruit Joe Biden in the fight against EU red tape.
Eurocrats could hit British goods with tariffs if Downing Street stops their embargo on exports of chilled meats to the region from coming into force next month.
Mr Eustice said No 10 wants to negotiate a technological fix but the EU has “been quite slow to date to engage”.
He said: “Does it really make sense to ban the sale of sausages and chicken nuggets manufactured in the UK from being sold anywhere in Northern Ireland?
“I suspect any US administration would be amazed if you were to say a sausage from Texas couldn’t be sold to California.”
Lord Frost lashed out against repeated threats by eurocrats to trigger a trade war or slap Britain with legal action.
Brussels was left furious after the Government unilaterally scrapped swathes of EU red tape on Northern Ireland.
The Brexit minister 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.
“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.
“It is only by making substantial progress across the whole range of difficulties that we can show people in Northern Ireland that the Protocol can work in a pragmatic, proportionate and sustainable way – as was always intended.”
Ministers suspect that the EU is exploiting the situation to “reopen” the trade deal and force Britain into aligning to the bloc’s food standards.
Many EU nations – especially France – were deeply unhappy with Michel Barnier’s failed attempt to secure that concession during last year’s negotiations.
Brussels red tape bans the import of processed chilled meats, like burgers and sausages, into the single market.
Negotiators agreed a six-month grace period during which the rules wouldn’t apply to Northern Ireland, but that is set to run out at the end of the month.
Downing Street is expected to refuse to impose the EU ban if a solution isn’t found by then to stop supermarket shelves running dry.
An EU official said: “We know the UK wants more flexibility and we hear that very loud and clear.
“But the UK must play its part and it must stop moving the goalposts in its requests.”
Brussels will likely slap Britain with further legal action if the sausage ban is not imposed.
But eurocrats have hinted at a possible technological fix that could resolve the row.
They suggested that if No10 grants the bloc’s customs officials access to real-time data on goods being shipped into Northern Ireland the EU will be able to relax its approach.
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