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Britain has warned the Brussels bloc it stands ready to block meat products from entering the UK from across Europe if they continue to play hardball during Brexit trade talks. Failure to reach an agreement to avoid a potential “two-way ban” on meat products moving between Ireland and the UK could end with the demise of Irish sausages from British supermarket shelves and German bratwurst being blocked at the Calais border.
UK negotiators warned Brussels it will use the EU’s very own legislation to issue its own ban.
A Whitehall source told The Times: “It’s been pointed out that the government has committed to mirroring EU food safety legislation after we leave the bloc.
“That means if they ban it then we’ll ban it too.”
It comes after it emerged EU food safety rules currently state any animal-based products coming from outside the bloc must be frozen to minus 18C.
This means certain meat products would be banned from entering Northern Ireland from Britain under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Certain meat products, including sausages, mince and prepared meals, would not be able to enter Northern Ireland from Britain as they would still be locked to EU food safety rules under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
This is because Britain will be regarded as a third country by the EU from January 1, while Northern Ireland will continue to operate EU food safety rules under the protocol signed in October last year.
Retaliatory measures from the UK could be economically damaging for Ireland after it exported 335,000 tonnes of beef, pig, sheep and poultry meat worth €1.3 billion to the UK in 2018, which would be under threat, according to The Times.
Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue described the issue as “concerning” and said he is working with the European Commission to resolve it.
He told RTE’s Morning Ireland: “This is an issue that has emerged over the last number of weeks and something that officials in my own department have been working with European Commission officials to discuss.
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“Obviously it is something which is concerning, it’s a reflection of the many issues which Brexit is causing.
“There’s going to be significant work then required in the weeks ahead as well to ensure that trade is as smooth and as efficient as possible on the first of January.”Mr McConalogue acknowledged even if the issue is resolved before Brexit, there will be an additional administrative burden on companies wishing to export to the UK.
He said: “This issue is specific to chilled, processed meats. Across the board, from the first of January, regardless of whether there’s a free trade agreement, there’s going to besignificant changes come the first of January in that Britain will become a third country.
“That does put additional administrative requirements on all countries exporting to Britain. It means that they need to have their paperwork and their processing systems in place to ensure that they are prepared for that.
“I wrote just last week to some 20,000 food companies and small-medium enterprises, emphasising the importance of everyone looking at their supply chains, and also looking particularly at the process and requirements that are going to be on them from the first of January.”
He refused to rule out export health certificates being required for meat products going to the UK.
Mr McConalogue added: “There will need to be documentation put in place for all exports going to Britain, after the 1st of January.
“It varies across different products, there will be additional certification required, certainly different to what it is at the moment when Britain is part of the EU.
“Each company does need to look at what is going to be required from them. Critical to all this as well is the completion of a good trade deal in the next, short period of time.
“If we don’t have that, that will obviously make trade a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive and mean tariffs for many products too. We are working hard to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
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