LONDON (Reuters) – Britain urged the European Union on Tuesday to help find an urgent solution to trade difficulties with Northern Ireland before the end of this month, saying there was no case for the bloc to prevent the sale of chilled meat in the province.
Since completing its exit from the EU last year, Britain’s relations with the bloc have soured, with both sides accusing the other of acting in bad faith in relation to part of their trade agreement that covers goods movements to Northern Ireland.
Under the deal, Britain was expected to introduce checks on some goods moving to Northern Ireland, an EU demand to ensure there was no back door to its single market via the border between the British province and EU member Ireland.
But London unilaterally extended a grace period until June 30 for some checks to minimise supply disruption of goods such as chilled meats, a move that deepened mistrust between the two sides which are now at loggerheads over how to resolve the standoff.
Earlier, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic warned Britain in an article in the Telegraph newspaper that the EU would “not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely” if it considered Britain was breaching its legal obligations.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson called for an urgent solution to the issue, saying if there was none found by June 30, there could be no possibility of Northern Ireland not being sold goods such as chilled meats from Britain.
“There’s no case whatsoever for preventing chilled meat from being sold in Northern Ireland. We think an urgent solution needs to be found,” the spokesman told reporters.
“We have not heard any new proposals from the EU. We have sent more than 10 papers to the Commission proposing potential solutions on a wide range of issues and we’re yet to receive a single written response.”
The EU has also criticised Britain for not showing any flexibility in talks which are expected to continue in London on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and William James; editing by Jason Neely)