BRITAIN has accused the EU of adopting a “purist” approach to the Brexit withdrawal deal in Northern Ireland amid warnings that sales of sausages from the rest of the UK could be blocked.

Ahead of fresh talks today to try to resolve the continuing differences over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol in the agreement, Downing Street urged Brussels to show “common sense and pragmatism”.

The appeal came after European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said the EU would act “swiftly, firmly and resolutely” if the UK tried to backtrack on its obligations under the deal.

It came amid reports Britain is ready to act unilaterally to delay imposition of checks on chilled meats such as sausages and chicken nuggets coming to Northern Ireland from Great Britain when the current “grace period” expires at the end of June.

While the Prime Minister’s official spokesman refused to be drawn on what steps the Government would take if there was no agreement by that point, he insisted there was no justification for barring chilled meats from Northern Irish shops.

“Any ban would be contrary to the aims of the protocol and the interests of the people of Northern Ireland,” the spokesman said.

“The protocol was a compromise.

"We didn’t expect the EU to take a purist approach when implementing it.

"We are working very hard to try to resolve these issues consensually.

“The Prime Minister has always made clear we will consider all our options in meeting our responsibility to sustain peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland.

“We hope that the EU will show the common sense and pragmatism needed to make progress.”

His comments came after Environment Secretary George Eustice dismissed the idea of controls on the movement of chilled meats between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland as “bonkers”.

“I think that’s a nonsense. I think we’ve got a very good sausage industry in this country, we’ve got the highest standards of food hygiene in the world,” he told LBC.

Irish premier Micheal Martin has called for calm in the escalating trade row.

He called on both sides to engage, to avoid continuing issues over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Mr Martin said: “It’s important that we do resolve these issues and that trust is built up between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

“It’s very important that our trust is built up, because otherwise we will have continuing issues and problems.”

Mr Martin called on UK Brexit Minister David Frost to engage with his EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic to resolve the row.

He added: “The type of Brexit we have creates issues all around in terms of trade between the European Union and the United Kingdom."