Martin presses EU for longer grace period over NI 'sausage war'

Taoiseach keen to de-escalate tensions over NI protocol as marching season to get under way

EU rules prohibit importation of chilled meats from outside the EU, thus preventing the importation of sausage and other chilled meats to the North from the rest of the UK. Photograph: PA

EU rules prohibit importation of chilled meats from outside the EU, thus preventing the importation of sausage and other chilled meats to the North from the rest of the UK. Photograph: PA

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin has pressed European Union leaders to grant an extension to the grace period from EU regulations governing the importation of chilled meat, in an attempt to defuse the so-called “sausage war”.

EU regulations prohibit the importation of chilled meats from outside the EU, and the protocol agreed with the British Government last year means that Northern Ireland will observe EU rules, thus preventing the importation of sausage and other chilled meats to the North from the rest of the United Kingdom.

The regulation has not been introduced because of a grace period which is due to lapse on July 1st. The British government has asked the bloc to extend the grace period and Brussels is considering the request.

Mr Martin is understood to have made the case for extending the grace period in a virtual meeting with EU leaders last week. He is expected to press them in person at a summit in Brussels later this week.

Mr Martin and the Irish Government are keen to de-escalate tensions in the North over the protocol as the marching season there gets under way in the coming weeks.

Officials say that if the EU refuses the request to extend the grace period, the British government may unilaterally extend it anyway, dealing another blow to bilateral relations.

DUP leadership

But concerns over the protocol continue to dominate unionist politics as the Democratic Unionist Party seeks a new leader to replace Edwin Poots, who announced his resignation last week after just three weeks in the job.

Yesterday Jeffrey Donaldson confirmed he will run as a candidate for the job. He said the protocol would be his primary focus if elected. Mr Donaldson previously lost out narrowly to Mr Poots in his bid for the leadership, amid a public rift in the party.

“Now, more than ever, we need to unite in the face of the threats posed to Northern Ireland by the protocol,” said Mr Donaldson. “Make no mistake, this is the number one issue facing our country, our people and our place within the United Kingdom.”

Nominations for the DUP leadership remain open until noon on Tuesday. Mr Donaldson is the only candidate to announce his bid so far.

There was speculation that East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson may decide to run against him. Mr Wilson did not respond to requests for comment.

If no one else enters the race, Mr Donaldson would be leader-elect from Tuesday afternoon and elected formally on Saturday.

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