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UK asks EU for grace period extension amid Brexit sausage trade row

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The UK has asked the European Union to extend the grace period on chilled meats being sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

The grace period allowing items such as sausages to be sent between the two is due to expire at the end of June.

The UK has asked for this deadline to be extended until September, something the European Commission has now said it will consider.

Sausages on sale at the butchers at Polhill Farm Shop near Sevenoaks 20/3/2020
Image: Sausages are among the meat products from Britain which could be barred from being sold in Northern Ireland

A statement released by the European Commission on Thursday said Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic will look to arrange discussions with UK Brexit Minister Lord Frost to discuss the details of the request

It noted that the EU has “already indicated its openness to finding solutions” that work alongside the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Solutions that provide “stability and predictability” for citizens of Northern Ireland will remain the top priority, the statement added.

The protocol was put in place to avoid the introduction of a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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It states that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory – so if the UK signs a free trade deal with another country, Northern Irish goods would be included.

However, Northern Ireland will have to stick to some EU rules to allow goods to move freely into the Republic.

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EU ‘at crossroads’ in relationship with UK

Under the protocol, a ban will come into force if the UK and EU cannot agree on new regulatory standards to cover the sale of some products after a “grace period” allowed under the agreement.

In March, the UK unilaterally extended the grace period for supermarket goods and parcels for another six months, after it was due to finish at the end of that month.

The EU launched legal action against the UK for extending that grace period.

After the grace period, chilled meats produced in Great Britain will not be allowed to be sold in Northern Ireland as they are not from the EU, which has strict restrictions on food products.

Last week, Boris Johnson said a solution to the current impasse between the UK and the EU over the protocol is “easily doable”.

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PM: NI Protocol deal ‘easily doable’

His comments came after crunch talks between Mr Sefcovic and Lord Frost in London which ended without a discussion being reached.

Lord Frost said he Mr Sefcovic had broken up their discussions with “no breakthroughs and no breakdowns” with the EU on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Sefcovic described the EU as having reached “a crossroads” with the UK after Wednesday’s talks and said the bloc’s patience is “wearing very, very thin”.

The PM’s spokesman has previously said there is “no case whatsoever” for blocking the sale of chilled meats.