Brexit: ‘Sausage war’ truce holds as UK indefinitely extends grace period for Northern Ireland trade

Full post-Brexit checks on goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will still not be applied as a truce holds between the UK and EU.

Brexit minister Lord Frost has announced the UK’s intent to continue to apply post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland “on the current basis”.

This is in order to allow talks to continue with the EU aimed at solving a “sausage war” and other disputes between the bloc and the UK related to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

There is currently a grace period and other easements being applied to aspects of the Protocol, meaning only light controls are being placed on exports from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

This includes on the export of sausages and other chilled meats, without which such products could be banned from entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Following a bitter row – dubbed a “sausage war” – over the issue earlier this year, both the EU and UK in June agreed to extend a grace period until the end of this month.

However, the grace period now looks set to continue indefinitely following Lord Frost’s announcement.

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The EU gave their tacit agreement to the move by saying they would not yet continue with legal action against the UK over the row.

In a written statement to parliament on Monday, Lord Frost said that technical talks between the EU and UK would “continue in order to determine whether a constructive process can be established for discussing and addressing the issues identified with the Protocol”.

“Following on from this, to provide space for potential further discussions, and to give certainty and stability to businesses while any such discussions proceed, the government will continue to operate the Protocol on the current basis,” he added.

“This includes the grace periods and easements currently in force.”

Lord Frost said that “reasonable notice” would be given “in the event that these arrangements were to change, to enable businesses and citizens to prepare”.

In March this year, the EU launched legal action against the UK after Britain unilaterally extended a grace period before the full implementation of post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

However, this summer the bloc paused the legal action as part of an effort to find “durable solutions” to the row.

The European Commission said on Monday that it would still not restart the legal action as it “took note” of Lord Frost’s announcement, but warned that it would “not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol”.

“The Commission continues to engage constructively with the UK, in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland,” a statement said.

“Our approach to the Protocol is based on the achievement of stability, certainty and predictability in line with the objectives of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement and in order to protect the Single Market.

“In this way, businesses and citizens in Northern Ireland will reap the full benefits of the Protocol and, in particular, the access to the Single Market it provides.

“The Commission reserves its rights in respect of infringement proceedings.

“At present, the Commission is not moving to the next stage of the infringement procedure launched in March 2021, and is not opening any new infringements for now.”

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