The ‘Sausage War’ between the EU and the UK is about to take a summer truce. Brussels is studying extending the date from which the importation of fresh meat in Northern Ireland would be prohibited, scheduled for this June 30.
A move requested by London and that the EU hopes will serve to negotiate a permanent agreement. In other words, as with the Brexit exit agreement, but applied this time to supermarkets.
The crisis comes because Northern Ireland is part of the European common market, so the products sold there must comply with the phytosanitary requirements established by Brussels.
Given that Britain refuses to join that regulation, trade in meat products between the two parties should be prohibited, but the agreement signed by the two parties last Christmas allowed six months of transition to negotiate something better in this regard. And, true to his customs, Boris Johnson has waited until the last day before acknowledging that he has not prepared anything on time and requesting a new extension.
The vice president of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, has advised the representatives of the Twenty-seven to accept the extension, although it is not yet known if it will be for three months, as Johnson has requested, or longer. But the European partners, with Ireland at the head, demand to negotiate a permanent solution to avoid infinite extensions .
The situation is especially complex due to the strong social division in the British province. The unionists consider that raising a trade barrier within the United Kingdom is a treason and the first step before its final delivery to Ireland, and they do not forgive that Johnson, leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party of the United Kingdom – to give him his full name – lied the Northern Irish unionists and sign an agreement so damaging to them.
But the other solution, implanting an internal border in Ireland, is unacceptable for Dublin and the pro-Irish forces in the province, after a century of civil war fueled by the partition of the island.
This crisis has already driven two leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), partners of the Conservatives in London in the previous legislature, unable to manage the accumulated anger among their ranks, which has resulted in weeks of riots in Belfast last spring.
The last of its leaders, Edwin Poots, lasted just three weeks in office, and had to resign after agreeing with Sinn Féin nationalists to declare Irish the co-official language in Northern Ireland.
A solution to the sausage conflict could be for London to accept European meat regulations, a move that would eliminate 80% of the controls between the two parts of the country at a stroke and greatly ease the internal conflict in the province.
US President Joe Biden encouraged Johnson to make this decision on his visit to the country for the G-7 summit, promising the premier that this would not be an obstacle to signing a hypothetical US-UK trade agreement. The question now is whether Johnson will accept this solution, or whether it will take several more extensions and another year of discussions first.