Greg Hands questions what ‘threat’ is surrounding sausages
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For months Britain and Brussels have been locked in what has been dubbed the post-Brexit ‘sausage war’. Brexit minister Lord Frost has just announced that the UK wants products travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland to continue to undergo customs checks “on the current basis”. A so-called ‘grace period’ is currently in place for some goods entering Northern Ireland to allow businesses time to adapt to the new post-Brexit trading rules.
British bangers and other chilled meats could face being banned from Northern Ireland once the grace period ends.
The grace period was due to expire at the end of September but has been extended by the Government.
The move is a bid to allow negotiations to continue with the EU over the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.
Some elements of the Protocol have been applied in a relaxed way by the UK to ease trade chaos in Northern Ireland, but Brussels has called for a stricter interpretation of the rules.
Before the UK left the EU last year another Brexit sausage war was raging on the streets of the UK.
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High street bakery chain Greggs confirmed in 2019 that it had been stockpiling pork to make its sausage rolls.
The company said in a statement: “We are preparing for the potential impact of the UK’s departure from the European Union by building stocks of key ingredients.”
Greggs said its move was in the event that the UK did not strike a deal with the EU before it left the bloc.
The two parties did reach their landmark trade and cooperation agreement on Christmas Eve last year.
Greggs previously expressed concerns that without a deal, supplies of tomatoes and lettuce for its sandwiches and salads could also be hit.
The firm said it had also been procuring some equipment “that could be affected by disruption to the flow of goods into the UK”.
Despite Greggs’ concerns about Brexit, the firm had a “very strong” third quarter with a 12.4% rise in sales.
Lord Frost updated MPs on the current ‘sausage war’ in a written statement to Parliament on Monday.
He said: “The Government proposed to the EU on July 23 a ‘standstill’ arrangement to maintain the operation of the Protocol on the current basis, and to pause current legal actions, to provide space for discussions on those proposals.
“The EU announced on July 27 that it was not, at that stage, moving to the next stage of the legal proceedings it started in March.
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“There have since been initial technical talks between the UK and the EU.
“These will continue in order to determine whether a constructive process can be established for discussing and addressing the issues identified with the Protocol.”
The minister described the move as a chance to “provide space for potential further discussions”.
He said the Government will “continue to operate the Protocol on the current basis”.
He added: “We will ensure that reasonable notice is provided in the event that these arrangements were to change, to enable businesses and citizens to prepare.”
Despite some of the issues around trade in Northern Ireland, the EU has refused to budge on renegotiating a new deal.
Responding to Lord Frost’s statement, the European Commission said: “We will not agree to a renegotiation of the Protocol.”
In July the EU paused legal action it had taken against the UK for unilaterally extending grace periods.
It said the UK’s actions amounted to a breach of the Protocol.
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