The decision to end the ban on British soil entering Northern Ireland has been met with confusion from within the region’s agri-food sector.

The Northern Ireland Office confirmed the ban on British soil entering Northern Ireland has been lifted.

However, confusion remains over whether the easement is a permanent or temporary measure after comments from officials appeared to contradict each other.

The decision was made without any industry consultation, with a lack of communication meaning many growers and horticultural traders remain unaware of the change.

It comes on the back of comments made by the Secretary of State Brandon Lewis in an interview with the News Letter on Saturday (March 13).

Responding to a question about the ban on British soil and processed meat products, like sausages, Lewis told the newspaper: “My position and the government’s position in terms of the grace period we’ve got for chilled meats at the moment is not that at the end of that grace period, there is a cliff edge; it’s that we use the grace period to get a permanent solution to ensure that those products can continue to flow.”

A statement made by the NIO and sent to the BBC said the easements were “temporary, practical steps to ease significant practical burdens, as we continue discussions with the EU on having appropriate risk-based permanent arrangements.”

However, within an hour, BBC NI’s business editor tweeted again to say a government source had said easements were “intended to be permanent; not a grace period”.

Despite several queries posed by Agriland to the Northern Ireland Office to clarify the matter, the NIO declined to provide any further comment or clarification.