In a potential breakthrough in the row, Brussels has signalled it is open to the UK’s request to keep transition arrangements on chilled meat sales until the end of September.
Under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, British-made sausages and similar foods are due to be banned from being sold in the province at the end of this month.
But Boris Johnson has threatened to suspend the agreement if that happens – with the bloc raising the prospect of a trade war by saying it would retaliate.
The extension could give more time for frantic efforts to find a way through the impasse.
The position has been complicated by the dramatic implosion of the DUP, with party leader Edwin Poots being ousted after just three weeks in the job and powersharing at Stormont hanging in the balance.
On a visit to Yorkshire this afternoon, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think that it’s very important that the Northern Ireland government should be stable, it should enjoy support across parties, which it does, it’s good it’s back up and running.
‘And what we want to do as the UK is ensure that we look after the stability of Northern Ireland, the peace process, and, of course, the union and movement of goods, people, services and capital to all parts of the union. That’s what we’re going to do.’
Boris Johnson (right) has threatened to suspend the Northern Ireland protocol over the row – with the EU’s Maros Sefcovic (left) raising the prospect of a trade war by saying it would retaliate
The position has been complicated by the dramatic implosion of the DUP, with party leader Edwin Poots (pictured) being ousted after just three weeks in the job
In a statement last night, the EU Commission said it was open to a solution on extending the grace period to September 30.
A No 10 spokesman said the extension would ‘allow movements to continue while we seek to find a longer term solution with the EU’.
It came as the US also agreed to drop a 25 per cent tax on single malt Scotch whisky for five years following Brexit.
The EU Commission statement read: ‘The Commission will now assess this request.
‘The Commission has already indicated its openness to finding solutions in line with the Protocol.
‘However, for that to happen, the UK must fully implement the Protocol, which is the solution found to protect the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, the functioning of the all-island economy, and the integrity of the EU’s Single Market.
‘There is no alternative to the Protocol.
‘When looking for solutions, providing stability and predictability for the people of Northern Ireland will be of paramount importance.’
Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic will seek to arrange talks with Brexit minister Lord Frost and his team to discuss the request, the statement added.
A Government spokesman said: ‘There is no case whatsoever for preventing chilled meats from being sold in Northern Ireland – any ban would be contrary to the aims of the Protocol and the interests of the people of Northern Ireland.’
Tories vented fury at DUP ‘dinosaurs’ amid complaints they are a ‘recruiting sergeant’ for a united Ireland after Mr Poots quit last night leaving powersharing hanging in the balance.
It means that Mr Poots becomes the shortest serving leader in DUP history. He was narrowly voted in as Arlene Foster’s successor on May 14, following a revolt against the former First Minister by his supporters.
But a majority of the DUP’s elected representatives turned on Mr Poots after he reached an agreement with Sinn Fein on Irish language legislation – a contentious issue for local unionists – to prevent the Stormont executive from collapsing.
Mr Poots, a creationist seen as a more hardline figure than Mrs Foster, then disregarded internal opposition to proceed with formally nominating ally Paul Givan as the new First Minister.
Mr Sefcovic is set for more talks with Brexit minister Lord Frost (pictured) over the protocol
The disarray has raised fears that the fragile Northern Ireland Assembly could collapse, just 18 months after it returned following a three-year hiatus.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is favourite to take over from Mr Poots, but he is believed to have a tense relationship with Mr Givan.
Tories turned their fire on the DUP over crisis, with one senior MP telling MailOnline that Mr Poots’s plans have ‘gone to sh**’ because his allies ‘can’t count’.
‘The DUP don’t have a strategy apart from how best to put people off voting unionist,’ the MP said.
‘They are the biggest recruiting sergeant for a border poll and they just won’t learn their lessons.’
The MP said unionists were being weighed down by having to appease ‘creationist luddites’.
‘It is extraordinary for a party which houses so many creationists how many dinosaurs are in it as well,’ they added.