Britain and the EU are still stalling in their negotiations for a Brexit agreement. While on the European mainland all eyes are fixed on the progress of the negotiations, the British tabloids are particularly angry about one aspect of the Brexit dispute: the import restrictions on British sausages and meat products.
Because Brussels wants to allow the import of British sausages in a “no-deal Brexit” to Ireland only in a frozen state. The reason is the EU food rules for third countries, which without a trade agreement would also apply to all meat and sausage products from Great Britain. Since Ireland is the only UK country to remain in the EU internal market after the deadline, the new regulation would also apply to Irish-UK trade.
British media fear the “sausage case”
For the British media and some politicians, this amounts to an import ban. London countered that it would also consider the same measures in a “no-deal Brexit” for sausage and meat products from mainland Europe.
In Great Britain, the sausages have long since made the headlines, especially the tabloids see the possible import regulation as an attack on domestic products. “Negotiations take a turn for the sausage,” jokes The Week newspaper. The Daily Mail also jokes that they fear “the sausage”. And the otherwise cautious Times reports on a “sausage war” and recalls the political sitcom “Yes Minister”. There, the fictional character Jim Hacker asserted himself against the EU’s plan to ban the popular “bangers”.
If the EU and Great Britain do not come to an agreement, the unanimous opinion of the media landscape threatens a mutual “sausage ban”, which for Europe could end with “Irish sausages no longer being available on British supermarket shelves and German sausages being refused further travel in Calais “Says the Times.
Food as a point of contention in Brexit
The British meat industry is hoping for an exception from the EU regulation. Above all, the Northern Irish meat industry, which accounts for a lion’s share of British exports to mainland Europe, would have a hard time meeting the new rules from January 1st. In 2018 it exported 300,000 tonnes of meat with an equivalent of 1.3 billion euros to the EU. Many producers worry that importing frozen meat is more cumbersome and could deter EU importers. In addition, there is a lack of cooling capacity to store the goods appropriately until they are exported.
Sausage and meat products are not the first foods to cause trouble around Brexit. The food industry is one of the most important sectors. According to the British Ministry of Agriculture, almost 45 percent of the food consumed in 2019 came from abroad, 26 percent of it from EU member states. Every fourth was imported from mainland Europe. Conversely, more than half of UK food exports worth £ 14.6 billion go to EU member states.
The new regulations for production standards, certificates for imports or the labeling of goods have repeatedly caused disputes in recent months. This series of pictures shows a small selection.
These foods are also causing trouble around Brexit
@imago images / Jens Koehler
Mackerel, herring, plaice and sole are one of the main points of contention in the negotiations for a British-European trade agreement. Instead of food standards, it is primarily about fishing. With the end of the transition phase, Great Britain wants significantly more restraint on the part of European fishermen. French fishermen catch around 80 percent of the fish in the English Channel, while their British colleagues catch just nine percent. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had already pleaded for the quotas to be reduced by 15 percent, but Great Britain is calling for significantly more restraint on the part of the EU. If both sides do not reach an agreement by December 31st, up to 6,000 fishing jobs could be lost, according to the European Fisheries Alliance. France, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands would be particularly affected.
@imago images / UIG
After fish and sausages, the British tabloids in particular have long since found a new exciting topic: after the sausages, the unofficial national dish “fish and chips” is also in danger. Because without a trade agreement, British ware and seed potatoes can no longer be imported into the EU. This is also confirmed by the British government on its website. The reason is the EU standards in relation to production and plant health, which require a separate agreement with Great Britain. However, this agreement is still missing. Many Irish “chip shops” should feel the consequences. For the production of the potato sticks, they use British potatoes, which from 2021 will come from a third country.
Another sector that Brexit will hit is Northern Irish whiskey production. Similar to the dairy industry, it relies on supply chains spread across the entire kingdom and has been for decades. Currently around a quarter of all whiskeys sold come from ingredients from both the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK. This is exactly what becomes a problem after the transition phase. Because an EU label cannot apply if part of the ingredients and production is outside Ireland and thus the EU internal market. The Irish Whiskey Association had long discussed a special regulation with Brussels. In June, however, the Commission made it clear: If significant Irish ingredients do not come from Ireland, the affected whiskey cannot be sold duty-free in the EU. For other trading partners such as Australia – one of the largest customers – tariffs of five percent were then incurred.
The dispute between the negotiating partners is not always just about harmonizing existing rules. London is also repeatedly trying to strengthen its bargaining power with customs threats. At the end of January, just a few days before the official Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the United Kingdom could raise tariffs on some French cheeses by 30 percent. France exported food worth 5.5 billion euros to Great Britain last year. In addition to cheese and other dairy products, wine and grain are also important. In the meantime, Spain was trembling about planned British tariffs on clementine (16 percent) and orange (3.5 percent) imports. Spain is the main supplier of oranges to the United Kingdom with 90,000 tonnes.
The sweet spread also caused friction due to Brexit. However, not between the negotiating partners, but between a German member of the EU Parliament and the British gossip press. In view of the Brexit, the SPD MEP Jakob von Weizsäcker wrote a written question to the EU Commission in 2017. The question: Can the name for jam be changed after Brexit? Since a corresponding EU regulation from 1979 and its new version from 2001, based on the British model, only spreads that contain at least 20 percent citrus fruit are considered jams. In Great Britain this only applies to the traditional product orange jam. All other spreads, on the other hand, count as jams. Especially in the British gossip press, the request heated the minds and caused biting tips in the comment columns. The EU Commission replied soberly that such a change was not planned.
@imago images / ZUMA Press
Many Britons felt the first episode of Brexit almost immediately after the referendum in 2016: The Marmite spread, which is extremely popular in the UK, was temporarily not available in the online range of the largest supermarket chain Tesco. The reason: In view of the depreciation of the British pound, the manufacturer Unilever demanded a price premium of ten percent immediately after the Brexit vote. Tesco refused and took the products of the British-Dutch group from the digital range. Much to the annoyance of the British. The Guardian newspaper headlined the dispute was the first harbinger of the true cost of the UK’s exit from the EU and the Financial Times described the situation as the “Marmite War”. After a few days, however, both companies settled the dispute.