A ceasefire in the UK and EU sausage war should be announced within 48 hours in Brussels, a European Commission vice-president told members of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, preventing a ban on British bangers in the country.
Maros Sefcovic also warned Britain against continued “negative rhetoric” against the Northern Ireland Protocol, which he said had “irresponsibly” stoked tensions.
"We have been gravely concerned at negative rhetoric about the protocol, which is after all an instrument to protect peace and stability,” he said in a virtual appearance before MLAs.
The Protocol prevents a hard Irish border by keeping the country in the EU’s customs territory and introducing checks on British goods entering Northern Ireland to ensure they meet the bloc’s standards.
Mr Sefcovic said a UK request for a three month extension on a grace period for chilled meat preparations such as sausages would be granted. If it was not, British bangers would be banned from sale in Northern Irish shops, as they now are in the EU, from July 1.
Brussels had warned it would resort to tariffs in a sausage trade war, if the UK carried out its threat to unilaterally extend the grace period to ensure the sausages could still be sold.
The Government has already unilaterally extended grace periods for parcels and supermarket supplies, which Brussels says broke international law.
Mr Sefcovic said: "It’s good that the UK is pursuing a different avenue on chilled meat."
“I remain confident that we can find a solution within the next 48 hours that will address both sides’ needs and concerns,” he said.
Mr Sefcovic said the UK should align with the EU on animal health and food safety rules to minimise the number of checks in the Irish Sea border. The Government has rejected any alignment on sovereignty grounds.
He told DUP MLAs that the EU was ready to be their “friend” and “partner” after they told him the protocol was driving a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. There will be a vote on the Protocol in 2024.