British sausages in Northern Irish supermarkets are under threat after the EU ruled out demands for the “free flow” of GB meat exports to the country after Brexit.
“People now need to adapt to changes. The only way to avoid [border] controls is to source things through the EU from now on,” an EU official said.
In December, the EU and UK agreed a six-month grace period on health checks for chilled meat products such as sausages imported into Northern Ireland from Great Britain ended
Before it was agreed, supermarkets including Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer had warned they would have to curb meat and dairy supplies from the UK. The UK and EU also agreed a three-month grace period for all other food suppliers selling into the province’s supermarkets and corner stores.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis told MPs on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday that Britain wanted to agree a “long-term permanent solution” with the EU during the grace period.
Mr Lewis said, “We want to make sure that you have that good free flow of products such as the Great British banger.”
Michel Barnier has recently said that now is the time to implement the Withdrawal Agreement and trade deal rather than begin new negotiations.
Senior EU diplomats suggested that there could be talks with Britain to reduce “frictions” at the border, such as rules that led to the confiscation of British ham sandwiches at the Dutch border.
However, they warned that could only happen if the UK stuck close to EU rules after Brexit rather than deregulate. The Government is looking to change the EU’s Working Time Directive, among other rules.
A senior EU diplomat said: “If I read about Singapore-on-the-Thames and increasing the working week beyond 48 hours to something like in the 50s … I don’t really think that is a good sign to have discussions on all the outstanding issues – and also the ones in Ireland.”
Northern Ireland is continuing to observe EU food safety rules after Brexit under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, which prevents the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland but means checks on some UK goods entering Northern Ireland.
British sources pointed out the EU had an incentive to disrupt people’s lives as little as possible because, under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, Stormont will have a vote on whether to remain aligned to EU rules after four years.