The sausage dispute between the UK and the EU may sound like something out of Yes Minister but it is the canary in the coal mine of UK-EU relations.
In a sign of some progress, Maroš Šefčovič, the Commission vice-president, will announce this afternoon that the EU will agree to a UK request to extend the grace period for sausages and other chilled meats going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland for another three months. Both sides will offer their own unilateral declarations on what the extension means. RTE’s Tony Connelly provides a typically thorough run through of what we can expect.
Two things are particularly worth noting. First, the UK is agreeing to a standstill on food standards during this period, not dynamic alignment with EU rules. This is interesting as EU agrifood regulations are changing, with some modifications expected to come in mid-August.
This means that sausages will continue moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland even when UK and EU rules are not perfectly aligned. The second is the sensible emphasis on labelling. Products being clearly marked for sale in the UK reduces the chance of them being smuggled into the single market and sold there.
The temporary resolution of this sausage issue is welcome. But the extension only lasts until 30 September. The question is whether the UK and the EU can come up with a more permanent solution to this and the other protocol problems in that timeframe.