• Staff Writers

Sausage war ceasefire on the Irish border

The European Union and United Kingdom have agreed not to let a fight over the transport of chilled meats from Britain to Northern Ireland further damage already fraught relations.

The bloc will also make it easier for medicines and guide dogs to cross the Irish Sea and allow Northern Irish drivers to travel to Ireland with existing insurance documents in moves designed to ease tensions following the UK's exit from the EU.

An EU official said:

"Where the UK disrespects its agreements with us and acts unilaterally, we will be tough.
"And of course it's possible to have good news stories when it comes to UK-EU relations."

The grace period on chilled meat products was due to end on Thursday, when UK non-frozen sausages or mince would not have been able to cross the Irish Sea because of an EU ban on such products from third countries, which now include the UK.

Officials in London called for three more months to allow the two sides to resolve the trade difficulties over Northern Ireland, which has faced disruption since the UK completed its exit from the EU at the end of 2020.

The UK said the extension was a positive first step but that both sides still needed to agree on a permanent solution.

The trading arrangement is governed by the Northern Ireland protocol, which has needed to find a delicate balance of keeping open the province's border with EU member state Ireland to protect the 1998 Good Friday peace deal while stopping goods entering the EU's single market across that frontier.

The protocol keeps Northern Ireland inside the single market for goods but this requires checks and controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea from mainland Britain.

The UK's Brexit Minister David Frost said:

"The chilled meats issue is only one of a very large number of problems with the way the protocol is currently operating, and solutions need to be found with the EU to ensure it delivers on its original aims.

The disruption to the delivery of some products has angered some pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland and there are fears it could fuel violence during "marching season" parades in July.