THE EU is this afternoon expected to formally announce a three-month extension of the grace period for chilled meats entering the North of Ireland from Britain.
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, such meats, including sausages and mince, are due to be banned if entering from Britain.
An initial six-month grace period delaying the ban, agreed by both sides last December, is due to expire at midnight tonight, June 30.
The issue of chilled meats has become a symbol of the deeper tensions over how the protocol is being implemented.
The EU bans the import of chilled, non-frozen meats, such as sausages, mince, pies and other products, from third countries.
Since the North of Ireland applies EU food safety rules, such products would not be permitted from Britain.
In December, the EU agreed a six-month grace period on the condition that the UK would clearly label such products, that they would undergo checks in special channels at Northern Ireland ports, and that the UK would continue to align with EU food safety rules for the duration of the grace period.
The UK issued a declaration agreeing with those conditions.
As tension mounted over the protocol in the past few months, it was expected that the UK would unilaterally extend the grace period without consulting the EU.
However, a formal request was made, and EU member states and the European Commission have agreed to it in principle.
In a formal legal procedure, the EU has linked the agreement to the fact that Northern Irish supermarkets have been adapting their supply chains, meaning they are sourcing such products either locally, or from the Republic, in other words, not from Britain.
Partly on this basis, the extension is being granted.
According to RTE’s Europe Editor Tony Connolly, UK sources have told him that London does not believe there are any reasons why British sausages cannot be sold in the North of Ireland.
This suggests there is, once again, a gap in both sides’ interpretation of what they are agreeing.Tags: