Northern Ireland: truce between London and Brussels in the “sausage war”

If its name can make you smile, this conflict has refreshed even more relations between Brussels and London, already severely damaged. Finally, the two camps decide to take a step aside: the British government and the European Union reached an agreement in extremis on Wednesday in the “sausage war” by postponing for three months certain post-Brexit measures for the North Ireland. The deal will allow Britain to continue shipping chilled meat to the British province until September 30, such as English sausages, which otherwise would have been banned from July 1.

“We are delighted that we were able to achieve a reasonable extension for chilled meat sent from Britain to Northern Ireland,” UK Secretary of State for Brexit David Frost said in a statement. “This is a positive first step, but we still need to find a permanent solution” because “Northern Ireland is an integral part of the UK and its consumers should be able to enjoy products bought in Britain for years to come”. For its part, the EU has insisted that this agreement is “temporary” and that it comes with “strong conditions”.

“We are not giving a blank check,” warned European Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic. “This extension will allow parties, especially supermarkets in Northern Ireland, to continue to adapt supply chains to the post-Brexit situation “. Difficult to negotiate as part of the Brexit agreement and effective since January 1, the Northern Irish protocol de facto maintains the British province in the single market and the European customs union for goods, by providing for customs controls on goods. goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain, separated by sea.

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Chilled meat: one dispute among others

The tensions between London and Brussels mainly concerned the entry into force, initially scheduled for Thursday, of measures preventing the shipment of refrigerated meat from the island of Great Britain, as is the case for countries not. not belonging to the EU. The British government, which criticized Europeans for being too “purist” in the application of the rules, had warned that it would not hesitate to act unilaterally to extend the grace period on controls.

Brussels, which in turn accused London of not respecting its commitments, had brandished the threat of retaliatory measures, such as targeted tariffs. The objective of the protocol is to prevent checks from taking place between the British province and the Republic of Ireland, to the south, and thus prevent the reestablishment of a hard border between the two territories, which could jeopardize peace in Ireland. of the North, after three decades of bloody violence. But these measures are accused of disrupting trade and angering Unionists – favorable to the British crown – who denounce the de facto introduction of a border in the Irish Sea, within the United Kingdom.

For David Frost, the issue of refrigerated meat is only “one of the many problems” posed by the protocol. “Solutions must be found with the EU to ensure that it meets its original objectives”, namely to protect the peace agreement, to keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and to protect the European single market, he insisted. According to Maros Sefcovic, this three-month extension of the grace period on controls should be used to discuss a broader agreement on animal and plant products, with an alignment with European rules that would make it obsolete ” 80% of controls “. London rejects such an alignment.

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A tense atmosphere in Northern Ireland

“We do not intend to continue by renewing extensions of the grace periods,” warned an official European source. “Northern Ireland deserves stability and predictability and the best way to achieve this is to have a permanent, mutually agreed solution”, but Brussels will not hesitate to be “tough” if London does not respect the Brexit agreement, insisted the same source. Anger at the protocol helped spark violent riots in Northern Ireland in early April, which could resurface during marches traditionally organized in July by Orange Unionists. The latter said on Wednesday that the parades would take place at 100 different locations in the province on July 12.


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