Brexit: European Union says patience with UK wearing ‘very thin’ over Northern Ireland border check row

Exports of chilled meats and sausages from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will effectively be banned at the end of this month

Brexit minister Lord Frost, flanked by Paymaster General Penny Mordaunt, sitting opposite European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, who is flanked by Principal Adviser, Service for the EU-UK Agreements (UKS) Richard Szostak (PA)

The EU said its patience with the UK is wearing “very, very thin” and threatened to launch a trade war against Britain as talks over the dispute about goods entering Northern Ireland ended without a breakthrough.

At the end of the month, exports of chilled meats and sausages from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will effectively be banned.

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European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic (left) and Brexit minister Lord Frost (right) - PA

At a glance: 5 key points

- The EU has threatened to launch a trade war against Britain if it fails to implement checks on goods entering Northern Ireland under the terms of the Brexit “divorce” settlement

- Brexit Minister Lord Frost refused to rule out the prospect that the UK could unilaterally delay imposing checks on British-made sausages and other chilled meats due to come into force at the end of the month

- Following three-and-a-half hours of discussions, Lord Frost accused Brussels of adopting an “extremely purist” approach to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Withdrawal Agreement

- European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic insisted the EU has shown “enormous patience” in the face of “numerous and fundamental gaps” in the UK’s compliance with the agreement

- President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the US does not want to see any action that would put at risk the Northern Ireland peace process, which the Protocol is designed to protect

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What’s been said

“Of course, as you would understand, the fact that I mentioned that we are at a crossroads means that our patience really is wearing very, very thin, and therefore we have to assess all options we have at our disposal.

“I was talking about the legal action, I was talking about arbitration, and of course I’m talking about the cross-retaliation.”

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic

“What we really now need to do is very urgently find some solutions which support the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, support the peace process in Northern Ireland and allow things to return to normal.

“What the EU is insisting on is we should operate the Protocol in an extremely purist way. The reality is that it’s a very balanced document that’s designed to support the peace process and deal with the very sensitive politics in Northern Ireland.”

Brexit Minister Lord Frost

“President Biden believes and has said that the Northern Ireland Protocol, as part of the agreement between the UK and the European Union, is critical to ensuring that the spirit, promise and future of the Good Friday Agreement is protected.”

President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan

Background

Under the terms of the Protocol – which is intended to ensure there is no return to a hard border with the Republic – Northern Ireland remains part of the EU single market, which in turn requires checks on some goods coming from the rest of the UK.

It has however resulted in renewed tensions – particularly among Unionist communities, who fear it represents a weakening of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK.

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