The European Commission vice-president described the EU as having reached a “cross roads” with Britain and said the bloc’s patience was “wearing very, very thin”. Mr Sefcovic told reporters: “I can say we are at a crossroads in our relationship with the UK. “Trust, which should be at the heart of every partnership, needs to be restored.”
He added: “The fact that I mentioned that we are at a crossroads means that our patience really is wearing very, very thin, and therefore we have to assess all options we have at our disposal.
“I was talking about the legal action, I was talking about arbitration, and of course I’m talking about the cross-retaliation.”
The Commission’s Brexit envoy said the EU “will not be shy” in launching retaliation, suggesting the bloc could opt for punitive trade tariffs and quotas on British exports.
Mr Sefcovic met Brexit minister Lord Frost in London yesterday as both sides battled to avoid a full-blown trade war on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
This morning Ursula von der Leyen lashed out at Boris Johnson’s suggestion the EU is not doing enough to protect peace in Northern Ireland.
The Brussels boss fumed: “The European Union is determined to make the Protocol work for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.
“We’ve bent over backwards for years to find a solution on that. We agreed with the United Kingdom that the Protocol was the only solution ensuring the absence of a hard border on Northern Ireland.
“We’ve been really debating that since years and we’ve found the one and only solution.”
Brussels fears Downing Street is about to disregard chunks of the Protocol to avoid a hard border.
This could trigger a sausage trade war if No10 refuses to impose an EU blockade on chilled meats being shipped to Northern Ireland.
Mrs von der Leyen added: “It is possible, I’m deeply convinced the UK can work on implanting the Withdrawal Agreement, but if not it is possible to move forward within the agreed frame to have remedial measures and dispute settlement mechanism.”
Mr Sefcovic said: “If the UK were to take further unilateral action in the coming weeks the EU will not be shy in acting swiftly, firmly and resolutely to ensure the UK abides by its international obligations.”
This could mean legal action, arbitration or retaliatory trade measures such as tariffs, he said.
The EU says without an agreement by July 1, there should be no fresh meat that is shipped from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland.
Lord Frost insisted there is still time to reach an agreement before the current grace periods for chilled meets ends.
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A senior source suggested there was no evidence that shows British sausages as being a risk to the EU’s single market.
The insider said: “The PM has been pretty clear that he can’t see a reason why we shouldn’t be able to sell the British banger in Northern Ireland.
“The biosecurity risk is zero. We don’t see why there should be a problem with that.”
And another British official dismissed the EU’s claims that meat impose, such as sausages or burgers, are a threat to the bloc’s market.
They said: “We have no evidence that sausages from the rest of the UK pose a risk to biosecurity in Northern Ireland or the environment.”