This file photo shows the flag of the UK and the flag of EU on Sept 20, 2019 in Brussels. (KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / POOL / AFP)
British and European officials are increasingly optimistic they will avert a post-Brexit trade war, believing the two sides will strike a truce in the dispute over checks on goods moving into Northern Ireland.
The British government has asked the European Union to extend the grace period before a ban comes into force on the sale of chilled meats and fresh sausages into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
The British government has asked the European Union to extend the grace period before a ban comes into force on the sale of chilled meats and fresh sausages into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK
No deal has been done yet and European officials wants to hear how the British government will use any extension to the June 30 deadline, with EU diplomats due to discuss next steps at a meeting Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said.
The issue of trade rules for Northern Ireland sparked heated clashes between the two sides in recent weeks and overshadowed the Group of Seven summit in Cornwall, southwest England, this month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has threatened unilaterally to suspend the rules if the EU refuses to back down, and the EU has warned it will respond with legal action if he does.
Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron argued face-to-face about the transport of sausages within France and the UK, and British media have labeled the clash the “sausage wars.”
Last week, UK minister David Frost said the government was becoming increasingly concerned that the dispute could undermine fragile political stability in Northern Ireland at a highly sensitive time.
In recent days, the EU has been reviewing the UK’s formal written request for an extension to the grace period. Officials on both sides now believe it’s likely that an extension to the current grace period will be granted.
The UK has opted not to introduce some checks on goods crossing into Northern Ireland, saying the EU’s strict approach to enforcing the rules is hurting local communities. The EU, which is Britain’s largest trading partner, says the UK is failing to implement the terms of the Brexit deal Johnson signed less than two years ago.
Under the terms of the Brexit accord, Northern Ireland -- unlike the rest of the UK -- remained under the EU’s customs and single market rules to avoid creating a visible border with the Irish Republic, a move that would risk reviving sectarian conflicts.
The EU wants a permanent settlement and is keen to avoid rolling grace periods becoming the norm. European officials say grace periods were designed to allow time for businesses and authorities to come into compliance with the Northern Ireland protocol, which was part of the UK’s separation agreement with the bloc.
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