UK and EU ‘not making much progress’ on Northern Ireland chilled meats row, says Brexit minister

Lord Frost told MPs that the government will have to ‘consider all our options’ if a compromise can’t be reached with the EU

UK and EU ‘not making much progress’ on Northern Ireland chilled meats row, says Brexit minister (Photo by Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Very little progress has been made in talks with the EU to resolve the trade issues relating to chilled meats and the Northern Irish border.

Brexit minister Lord Frost told MPs that although trade talks are ongoing, “we are not making much progress despite all the ideas that we have put in”.

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At a glance: 5 key points

– Brexit Minister Lord Frost has been quizzed by MPs on the Northern Ireland Select Committee on the government’s progress in talks with the EU over an ongoing trade dispute

– The peer confirmed that little progress has been made on the dispute over whether chilled meats can be exported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, despite a ban on imports into the current market from “third countries”

– The despite relates to the Northern Ireland Protocol, part of the Brexit deal agreed by Lord Frost and Boris Johnson with the EU last year

– Lord Frost has threatened to suspend parts of the Brexit deal in order to allow goods to move across the Irish sea

– EU leaders have previously stated that to do so would likely prompt retaliatory trade measures

What’s been said

Speaking to MPs, Lord Frost said: “We obviously face a difficulty on the chilled meats issue.

“We have asked and suggested to the EU that the right way forward would be to agree to extend the grace period, at least for a bit, to provide a bit of a breathing space for the current discussions to continue and try and find solutions.

“I still hold out some hope that they might agree to that because it seems a very narrow point to take such a purist view about.

“We are not having much progress but there is a little bit of time left before that.”

“If we can’t agree it we will obviously have to consider all our options. I wouldn’t want to tie us down to anything at this point.

“It does seem to us, in a way, a very purist point for the EU to insist upon given that there is – as far as we are aware – no risk of Great British sausages ending up in the single market.

“We are not aware that it has happened, I would like to think somebody would have told us if it had – I think probably they would have.”

Background

The EU and UK are involved in a dispute over aspects of the Brexit deal agreed in late 2019.

The Northern Ireland protocol means that Northern Ireland is treated as a member of the single market, to allow goods to flow freely between it and the Republic of Ireland (an EU member state) without the need for a hard border.

However, this means that goods which travel from Great Britain to Northern Ireland must be checked to ensure they comply with single market rules, because the UK overall is not an EU member state.

Some products, such as chilled meats, cannot be imported into the common market from ‘third countries’, which is why there is currently a ban on chilled meat from Great Britain being sent to Northern Ireland.

US president Joe Biden is thought to be particularly concerned that a dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol could inflame tensions in the country, and reportedly raised the issue with Johnson at the recent G7 summit.

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