‘Ferret wars’ new front in Northern Ireland Brexit deal battle

Lord Frost will demand that Brussels allows the free movement of British pets in Northern Ireland as it emerged that "ferret wars" is the latest front in Britain’s battle with the EU over a new Brexit deal.

The European Commission has offered to dramatically reduce Irish Sea border checks in a bid to break the deadlock over the Northern Ireland Protocol – but not to ease movement of cats, dogs and ferrets, which benefits from the EU pet passport scheme.

Northern Ireland continues to follow EU rules on animal health to prevent a hard Irish border. British pet owners face costly and onerous documentary requirements costing more than £110 to travel to the EU and Northern Ireland.

On Thursday night, government sources called it a "glaring omission" from the EU’s proposals, with one saying: "It should be as easy to get a pet from London to Belfast as it is to get them from London to Glasgow."

Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP leader, warned that any new agreement would need to deliver a "resolution on pet passports" to command support among unionists.  

"I would call this a ferret blockade," said Andrew Bridgen MP, who owned a ferret when he was 12. "It is about time the EU performed a reverse ferret."

David Jones MP, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Tory MPs, said: "Northern Ireland is just as much a part of the UK as North Wales. It is an issue of sovereignty."

EU officials said it would only have been possible to offer a pet passport scheme to Northern Ireland for British dogs, cats and ferrets if the UK had agreed to fully align with Brussels’ animal health rules.

The commission has offered to cut up to 80 per cent of animal health checks but it is thought an offer on pets was killed off by health officials in the EU executive.

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