Brexit: ‘Great opportunities for NI’ claims EU ambassador amid protocol extension talks

David Frost: UK 'considering options' on NI Protocol

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Westminster has asked for the grace period, set to expire next week, to be extended until the end of September to give Britain more time to implement the protocol. Speaking on BBC Newsnight, Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, said discussions are ongoing.

“I don’t think we can say it’s concluded, the discussions are still ongoing,” he said.

“Our approach is one of finding consensual solutions.

“We criticise the British Government for taking unilateral measures, we are happy that on this case they suggested a common approach to this problem.

“We’re working on it very hard and I hope that we can find a compromise on that.”

The dispute, also dubbed the “sausage war”, has arisen over differences in food standards.

Under the protocol, Northern Ireland has remained in line with EU standards meaning checks must be imposed on any unfrozen meat imports from Britain.

Ambassador João said: “I think it makes sense not to cause more problems than we need to create in Northern Ireland.

“We knew from the beginning that Northern Ireland would be the most affected part of the United Kingdom.”

However, Ambassador João added “there are great opportunities for Northern Ireland even after Brexit”.

Agreeing to the EU’s plant and animal rules would make around 80 percent of checks currently required to import chilled meats into Northern Ireland obsolete.

However, ministers have ruled accepting the EU standards would be contrary to the goals of Brexit.

BBC Newsnight host Emily Maitlis pressed the EU ambassador on whether the extension would only be granted if Westminster was forced to accept the EU’s standards.

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She said: “But to clarify, is that [standards] the deciding issue? Are you saying there won’t be an extension or a permanent solution until the UK has signed up to those same standards?”

Ambassador João did not confirm or deny the claim.

He said: “I’m not saying that or the contrary.

“I’m saying we are proposing an even larger than that agreement.

“But we are now focusing on that, as we are focusing on medicines and other issues that we know are critical for the population in Northern Ireland.”

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