The marvels of our own bangers risk getting overlooked in Brexit dispute, it’s claimed
It’s time to stand up for the Northern Ireland sausage, food leaders have declared, as our bangers risk getting burnt in hostilities between the EU and the UK.
Sausage maker James Doherty of Doherty’ s in Londonderry said the virtues of the NI banger are being overlooked as so-called sausage wars triggered by the NI Protocol are ramped up.
Finnebrogue Artisan in Downpatrick has also added an extra sizzle with a claim to be the home of the UK’s finest sausage.
Zoe Davies, the chief executive of Great Britain’s National Pig Association, said the industry is facing bigger Brexit problems than getting sausages to NI.
She said most sausage traffic travels in the opposite direction - sausages stocked in Great Britain’s Asda and M&S supermarkets come from Finnebrogue.
Civil servant Sir Bernard Woolley in classic BBC sitcom Yes Minister asked the question of the European Economic Community, “they can’t stop us eating the British sausage, can they?”
That’s what might happen in a fortnight when a six month grace period agreed under the NI Protocol and permitting the import of prepared chilled meats from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, comes to an end.
The protocol was agreed as an element of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and means that NI must abide by EU single market rules, which forbid the import of chilled meat preparations like sausages and mince from a third country into EU territory.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman last week said "all options are on the table" when it comes to how it will handle the deadline if there is no agreement between now and then.
Ms Davies said the sausage had become a British emblem in the EU-UK conflict over the Protocol but that its significance in GB to NI trade was exaggerated.
“We don’t send much in the way of sausages to NI - it’s not really a thing.
“Our sausages aren’t better than yours but they’re being used by the media to put an angle on the story.
“There are much bigger issues under the protocol and the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and sausages aren’t one of them.
“It is an iconic product and a bit more interesting than other chilled meats but the traffic largely comes the other way.
“We feel more concern about retailers having problems getting product from GB to NI and importing from the EU instead, which isn’t great for UK plc.”
Mr Doherty said: “I think our locally produced sausages are very bit as good if not better than what you can get in Great Britain so absolutely, the more local we can be the better.
“It will help the economy and boost jobs here. I think maybe we should be looking towards that rather than squabbling over sausages from Great Britain.”
Agreeing that it was time to stand up for the NI sausage, Mr Doherty said: “The whole thing about sausages is blown out of proportion.
"It’s the one thing that’s been looked on as a major issue but the more we can do for NI business the better.
“If there are opportunities there, why not maximise them, it’s for everybody’s benefit.”
He praised rival sausage-maker Cookstown Sausages, which ran an advertising campaign featuring a young George Best with his family. “Cookstown is a good, locally-produced sausage.
"We’re all in this together and it’s good to see the local economy hopefully benefiting where we can.”
Jago Pearson, chief strategy officer at Finnebrogue Artisan, said: “We are proud to have established ourselves as the UK’s leading premium sausage maker - and we are even more proud of our Northern Irish roots.
"We have invested £90m here in the last six years, employ nearly 1000 people across four state-of-the-art factories and make the UK’s finest sausage.
“Brexit has presented both challenges and opportunities for our business, challenges which we have overcome and opportunities we are largely yet to seize. But political events like this do not dictate our future.
“The sausage wars might make great headlines but the reality is that Northern Irish consumers continue to enjoy our delicious products every day without a hitch.
"By making delicious, nutritious and sustainable food from this corner of Co Down, we can succeed in almost any circumstances - and we are very optimistic about the future.”
Jay Rayner, food critic at the Observer, said the sausage row was a mere trifle. “The bigger issues of food supply chains, territorial integrity, community relations and a hard border make the pitiful question of whether the good people of NI can get their hands on a quality sausage look marginal. Though for what it’s worth Hannan Meats does a fine line in them.”