When is a Sausage War Not a Sausage War?

As the world continues to seek solutions for how to vaccinate people against Covid-19 and answers for how to reduce carbon emissions, the UK and EU are having a row about sausages, or are they?

The Issue

Unsurprisingly this is all because of Brexit and the UK not liking a deal that it negotiated and then ratified.

The humble British sausage and all of their other cold meat friends have long enjoyed the right to roam around the UK, they could easily pass from Great Britain to Northern Ireland with minimal fuss.

However the Brexit deal included an agreement that some products such as meat, milk, fish and eggs, would have to go through checks in the UK when they were shipped from Britain to Northern Ireland as an alternative to a hard border with the Republic of Ireland (and the EU). These checks are to ensure they meet EU standards. Originally they were given a grace period which allowed them to continue as before, but that expires at the end of June. 

Some food products arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain – such as frozen meat, milk, fish and eggs – have to be monitored to ensure they meet EU standards.

The UK gov has said the prospect of blocking the free movement of the sausage within the UK as ridiculous and has claimed the EU is acting with ‘legal purism’. 

Why Sausages?

Funnily enough it actually isn’t really anything to do with sausages. It’s all cold meat but the jingoistic nature of the UK press combined with the Brexiteering campaigning nature of the right wing of the Conservartive Party has used the humble sausage as its symbol for this row because they see them as quintessentially British and something the British public will get behind. Let’s face it, who is going to pick a fight over a turkey escalope or even a chicken Kiev. 

However while the British market accepts many Irish sausages everyday, there are actually very few British sausages going the other way. 

Macron

Just as it looked like this story would fade away into red tape and border checks, with most people in Britain completely disinterested about Northern Irish politics or if a sausage has to be looked at by a serious looking man with a clipboard, in stepped Emmanual Macron, who fresh from a slap to the face, decided to deliver one himself.

When on their trip to Cornwall for the G7, Boris asked Macron whether he would accept a ban on movements of sausages between Toulouse and Paris. There are different versions of exactly what was said, but the French President is accused of saying that Toulouse and Paris are in the same country so it wasn’t the same thing at all. This of course has angered some people who got very annoyed and pointed out that while Northern Ireland isn’t in Great Britain, it is in the United Kingdom. Foreign secretary even referred to the remarks as ‘offensive’.

What Next?

Ignoring Mr Macron’s comments, the issue is what the UK will now do to ensure the free passage of the very few humble British sausages. Well in its typically calm and measured manner, the gov has suggested that it will just ignore the rules and carry on regardless. However the EU has said if it does this then it will hit the UK with import tariffs and take legal action. 

But for anyone who followed the Brexit negotiations or remembers the glory days of the EU when it was forcing its member states to ignore little issues like democracy in order to secure bailouts when its broken financial system caused chaos, a deal is always done at the last minute. So we can expect that to happen here. But what it is unlikely to resolve is the simmering tensions in Northern Ireland between unionists who are totally opposed to any checks between itself and the rest of the UK and republicans who are saying these issues clearly demonstrate the need for a referendum on a united Ireland. 

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