EU calls on London to halt the ''sausage war''

Photo: EPA Maros Sefcovic

EU pushed UK to accept a Swiss-style deal over veterinary differences on agricultural foods differences between Britain and Northern Ireland which has gained popularity as the ''sausage war''. The tension has risen after the Brexit process came into effect, Reuters reported. The issue is sensitive for Northern Ireland, particularly related to chilled meat, because the province’s open border with EU member Ireland is now part of Britain’s frontier with the EU’s single market.

EU Commissioner Maros Sefcovic, who is involved on behalf of the Union with Britain since it completed its exit from EU, said the biggest challenge for Brussels was how to rebuild trust and realign its relationship with London. “To build trust in each other requires first working together cooperatively and refraining from surprises”, he said, referring to Britain’s unilateral extension of grace periods for some food imports to its province of Northern Ireland. “In response, we were forced to launch an infringement procedure, and without satisfactory steps by the UK to remedy these measures we will have no choice but to step up these legal proceedings,” he told a conference. The EU is worried goods could flow unchecked from Northern Ireland into the single market. London says an important part of Brexit is not to be related to EU rules and has called on the bloc to show more flexibility in finding solutions to the paused issues.

Britain has also blamed the EU of an legal misinterpretation of the Northern Ireland protocol, an agreement which supervises trading arrangements following Brexit.

Sefcovic said legal steps over the protocol was not the EU’s favourite option and that an accord last week to a three-month extension for free movement of chilled meats into the province signalled its will to find pragmatic working solutions.

He said a longer-term solution to avoid Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks for agricultural food products which range from live animals to fresh meat and plant products, could be along the lines of an agreement the EU has with Switzerland.

That pact removes nearly all physical SPS checks, though not documentary checks, and achieves this through a dynamic regulatory mechanism that creates a Common Veterinary Area. “This could be negotiated very quickly and would address many concerns,” Sefcovic said. “The UK continuing to apply EU SPS rules will do away with a vast majority of the checks in the Irish Sea and would not require checks elsewhere, say in Northern Ireland.”

He said he was aware of the British government’s concerns about such a solution, but added it was important “not to get too caught up” with concerns about alignment of rules and regulations between Britain and the EU.

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