Boris Johnson in 2019 with some sausages, a photo shoot he probably now wishes he’d never done (Image: Getty Images)
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British sausages will not end up in the EU by the backdoor, a Government minister insisted today amid mounting tensions in a stand off with Brussels.
Lord David Frost, who is Boris Johnson's EU adviser and negotiated the Northern Ireland Protocol for the Brexit deal, tried to ease continental fears chilled meats will slip into the single market unless checks are carried out on goods moving from mainland Britain to the province.
He told the Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee: “It does seem to us in a way very purist for the EU to insist upon (checks), given that there is – as far as we are aware – no risk of Great British sausages ending up in the single market.
“We aren't aware that's happened. I would like to think someone would have told us it had.”
The Prime Minister, French President Emmanuel Macron and Brussels chief Ursula von der Leyen clashed at the G7 Summit in Cornwall over a looming “sausage war” as restrictions on chilled meats come into force next month.
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Brexit Minister Lord Frost admitted talks with the EU were making little progress.
The two sides disagree over the way the Protocol – the part of the Brexit deal aimed at avoiding a hard border with Ireland – is being implemented.
He again restated the UK's threat to unilaterally suspend parts of the arrangement – a point the PM stressed at the G7 in Carbis Bay.
The peer told MPs "there are discussions going on the whole time" with Brussels.
"It's happening all the time, it's just that we are not making much progress despite all the ideas that we have put in," he said.
He insisted "all options remain on the table" in the row.
Lord Frost answering questions from MPs this morning
(Image: PA Wire/PA Images)
"We'd prefer to find negotiated ways forwards if we can," he said.
"If that's not possible, obviously other options remain on the table, as the PM said over the weekend."
Asked about the uncertainty the row was causing for businesses, he said "there comes a point where the unsatisfactoriness of the current situation and the attempts to operate it contributes to the uncertainty and instability".
Committee chairman, Conservative MP Simon Hoare, told the peer he should not have been “blindsided” by problems with the system, because he negotiated it.
Mr Hoare added: “Effectively you're saying there are elements of the Protocol that are unsatisfactory – but this is the Protocol the the Government signed up to.”
Lord Frost said the Protocol issue had become more difficult because of the "weakening of consent" for the arrangements in unionist groups.
"The difficulty that we have had since the start of the year, or at least the end of January, is there has been a very visible weakening of consent in one community in Northern Ireland for the arrangements in the Protocol, and that's obviously produced instability and uncertainty," he said.
DUP MP Ian Paisley told the minister: “The business community feel at best hamstrung.”
Fearing the row could fuel tensions in the run-up to July 12 Orange order marches, when protestants mark King William of Orange's victory over the Catholic King James II at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne, added: “This can't go on much longer before something gives, and I'm seriously worried about the fabric of our society.”
Lord Frost admitted support for the Protocol had “corroded” among unionists.
But he said the key tool for cracking the Brexit deadlock left “a lot of loose ends” and the plan was always to fine tune the pact after the transition period ended in January this year.
The Tory peer told the committee there were “a lot of loose ends and open-ended provisions for subsequent negotiations” when the deal was struck.
He added: “The spirit of good faith that was necessary to make the Protocol work and was so prevalent in 2019, we hope it can continue to be as we find ways to operate it.”
Lord Frost claimed problems lay not in the regime itself but the way it was being run.