A deal to hold off a post-Brexit ban on sausages and other chilled meats moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland is expected to be announced at the eleventh-hour.
The UK and the European Union are set to announce an extension to a grace period allowing their movement across the Irish Sea on Wednesday – hours before a ban would come into force.
Brussels’ post-Brexit negotiator Maros Sefcovic is scheduled to address the media on Wednesday afternoon, while the UK is expected to issue a statement.
Downing Street anticipated that a deal to avoid a ban on sausage shipments, which would come into place on Thursday without action, would be reached “on terms which are acceptable to the UK”.
The UK Government had threatened to unilaterally extend the grace period, something which would have triggered retaliatory action from the EU in the trade conflict dubbed the “sausage war”.
A prohibition on chilled meats is one element of Brexit’s contentious Northern Ireland Protocol, which has created a series of economic barriers on Irish Sea trade.
Shipments of chilled meats from third countries into the single market are banned – a prohibition which will cover the rest of the UK unless a lasting solution is found.
Mr Sefcovic, a European Commission vice-president, told a Northern Ireland Assembly committee on Monday that he was confident an extension would be granted “that will address both sides’ needs and concerns”.
He said an “obvious” way to remove new Irish Sea trade checks and restrictions on a longer term basis would be for the UK to strike a deal on animal and plant standards that would see London align with Brussels’ agri-food regulations.