The European Commission said on Thursday that it would examine Britain’s request to extend a grace period for postBrexit rules on chilled meat imports for Northern Ireland — part of the so-called sausage war between London and Brussels.
The commission said that it had received the request on Thursday to put off till September 30 the deadline set for the start of July.
‘The Commission will now assess this request,’ a statement said.
‘The Commission has already indicated its openness to finding solutions in line with the Protocol,’ for Northern Ireland under the Brexit deal.
‘For that to happen, the UK must fully implement the Protocol,’ it added.
Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic will contact Brexit minister David Frost to set up a meeting on the request as soon as possible.
Britain and the European Union have agreed that a special ‘protocol’ will govern trade with Northern Ireland in the postBrexit landscape as part of their divorce deal. Since the start of 2021, the province has remained effectively inside the EU customs union and single market for goods.
The scheme prevents a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a former flashpoint in sectarian conflict which largely ended in 1998.
However, the protocol is deeply unpopular within Northern Ireland’s pro-UK unionist community, who argue it creates a defacto border with mainland Britain. While various grace periods have been agreed, London is threatening to act unilaterally to extend the next one coming into force next month.
Such a move would be seen by Brussels as unravelling the postBrexit accords negotiated in painstaking detail since the 2016 referendum.
The dispute dominated the G7 summit in England last weekend.
British prime minister Boris Johnson and EU leaders duelled over the topic which spiralled into a faceoff about UK sovereignty over Northern Ireland. Tensions are high in the territory which is divided between proIreland nationalists and pro-UK unionists.
There are fears that unrest will reignite in July — a traditional time of disruption in Northern Ireland — if discontent over the protocol is not settled.
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