Brussels to trap UK in decade-long negotiations over NI protocol, warns Yanis Varoufakis

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The UK has applied for an extension to a grace period allowing chilled meats to continue being shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland after the end of this month, when the current arrangements are due to expire. Yanis Varoufakis has warned Boris Johnson that the European Union will make negotiations over the Northern Ireland protocol go on for decades.

Speaking to the New Statesman, Mr Varoufakis said: “If you leave you won’t leave, you will be embroiled in a permanent negotiation with Brussels for decades to come after Brexit.

“What we see now with the Northern Ireland protocol is precisely that.”

It comes as Ireland is listening to those who have real concerns about the Northern Ireland Protocol, and “making the case strongly at an EU level for flexibility and pragmatism”, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister has said.

Simon Coveney said he hopes that progress will be made in the “sausage war” trade dispute between the UK and the European Union in the next week.

But he added there would also have to be “an adherence to what was agreed”.

The UK has applied for an extension to a grace period allowing chilled meats to continue being shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland after the end of this month, when the current arrangements are due to expire.

Mr Coveney said: “I hope this week that we will see progress between both sides on the request from the British Government side for a modest extension to the grace period for chilled meats.

“I hope we’ll be able to see progress on sensitive issues like guaranteeing supplies into Northern Ireland, and also on pets and I hope we can, in the coming weeks and months, also explore positive opportunities around common standards around food production, management and safety.

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“This was a good discussion.”

Mr Coveney was speaking after a meeting of the British-Irish intergovernmental conference in Dublin on Thursday, following speculation of a truce in the “sausage war” dispute.

He met with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brandon Lewis.

Irish Justice Minister Heather Humphreys and Northern Ireland Minister of State Robin Walker were also in attendance.

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Mr Coveney said it was the first such meeting since 2019, describing it as a “really important” structure that allows the UK and Irish governments to “work together on issues of mutual interest and concern”, adding they are committing to holding it several times a year going forward.

Mr Lewis said he was hopeful that the EU was being “flexible” in its approach to the trade dispute with the UK Government over chilled meats.

He said: “Obviously we have not had a formal response yet from the EU, so we need to wait to see that formal response. Some technical conversations are ongoing around that.

“Obviously I’m hopeful that they are being flexible and looking at a pragmatic way forward, that would be a good indication.

“We’ll have to see what the detail is when it comes forward and then we can hopefully move forward positively.”

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