EU to announce three month extension to NI chilled meats grace period – in return for UK commitments

Tue 29 Jun 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The EU will tomorrow announce a three month extension to the grace period on restrictions around moving chilled meats from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, Irish broadcaster RTE understands.

The movement of these products into Northern Ireland, which remains in the EU customs union and single market, was to be restricted from 1 July. The UK had requested an extension of the existing grace period until September.

UK commitments

RTE is reporting that in return, the UK will commit to continue aligning with EU food safety and animal health rules until September 30 and acknowledge that the extension will allow NI supermarkets to adapt their supply chains.

Longer term, the UK would work towards a more sustainable solution to moving goods between GB and NI in a way that respects EU single market rules.

Yesterday (Monday 28 June) European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic is “confident” a last minute solution can be found to the chilled meats problem.

Bold steps

Addressing members of the Northern Ireland Assembly yesterday, Sefcovic said he thought that a solution would be found that would address “both sides’ needs and concerns”, the Irish Times reports

Sefcovic said the EU was willing to consider “bold steps”, including changing EU laws to resolve outstanding issues, if the UK was prepared to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol in full.

Medicines and dogs

According to the Times, the EU will extend the grace period and introduce new flexibility in other areas including the movement of medicines and guide dogs into NI. 

Sefcovic has persuaded EU countries to relax rules over the use of medicines and treatments in NI. Some cancer treatments approved for use by the NHS in Britain could be blocked in NI because the medicines are not approved in the EU. NI has also faced shortages of some drugs.

The concession will mean an exemption for all treatments and generic drugs used by the NHS to preserve an “essential state function” in NI.

Swiss option

Sefcovic repeated the EU’s preference for a temporary Swiss-style veterinary agreement in Northern Ireland, reports the BBC. The UK has previously rejected this idea as it doesn’t want to follow EU rules.

Northern Ireland deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill welcomed the possible extension but said longer-term solutions were required.