EU ambassador rejects claims of inflexibility on Northern Ireland Protocol

The EU’s ambassador to the UK has hit back at criticism from the UK, saying Brussels has turned its rules and regulations “upside down” to ensure the Northern Ireland Protocol can work.

Joao Vale de Almeida made his comments a day after a three-month “truce” was agreed in the post-Brexit “sausage war” which has blocked unfrozen British sausages and minced meat from being sent to Northern Ireland since December 31.

Mr Vale de Almeida rejected accusations that the EU has been inflexible or “legalistic” over the Northern Ireland deal, citing the extension to a protocol grace period for chilled meats, and concessions to smooth Protocol barriers for medicines, guide dogs, livestock and car insurance.

But he also said the bloc will insist on the full implementation of the Protocol, which keeps Northern Ireland subject to almost 300 EU rules and creates an Irish Sea border for goods from Britain.

“In some cases, notably on medicines, we have completely turned our rules upside down and inside out to find a solid solution to an outstanding challenge,” Mr Vale de Almeida writes in a column in The Daily Telegraph.

“Who said we didn’t care? We do care. And, while we remain firm on the full implementation of the Protocol, we also continue to seek creative solutions.”

Unfrozen British sausages and minced meat have not been allowed to be sold in the EU since Brexit took effect because the two sides have failed to complete a veterinary agreement.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost has repeatedly accused the EU of a lack of pragmatism in talks on the Protocol, which he says has a chilling effect on trade between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The DUP has also claimed that Brussels is ignoring the concerns of the unionist community.

Brussels has also pledged to alter EU laws to remove obstacles to the supply of life-saving generic drugs to the NHS in Northern Ireland before another grace period expires at the end of the year.