U.K. Seeks Longer Northern Ireland Trade Grace Period

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The U.K. government asked the European Union to prolong a trade grace period relating to Northern Ireland, seeking to avoid an imminent ban on some meat products that would aggravate post-Brexit tensions.

Under the terms of the Brexit divorce treaty, chilled meats and fresh sausages would be barred from entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the U.K from July 1. That’s because Northern Ireland must follow EU health and safety rules, which don’t permit trade in such products.

The U.K. has written to the European Commission to ask to defer the change to Sept. 30, a government spokesperson said in response to questions from Bloomberg. The longer grace period would allow trade to continue while the two sides seek a longer-term solution, they said.

“There is no case whatsoever for preventing chilled meats from being sold in Northern Ireland,” the spokesperson said.

Delaying the looming sausage ban would be a temporary fix to an issue that has become a major flash point in the testy post-Brexit relations. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accused the bloc of being inflexible over the situation, and that the ban would undermine the territorial integrity of the U.K.

The EU argues that Britain needs to respect the binding international agreement it signed in 2019.

This week, U.K. Brexit minister David Frost said talks aimed at resolving the dispute are failing to make progress and running out of time. Speaking to a committee in Parliament in London, Frost said the government is “extremely concerned” over the risks to political stability in the region and a solution to the dispute with the EU must be found soon.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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