JIM Hacker would be appalled. The EU could be about to ban the Great British sausage.

The protagonist in the 1980s’ popular BBC comedy Yes Minister famously hit out at the bureaucratic Bonapartes and commissars of Brussels as he labelled them.

“We have swallowed the wine lake, we have swallowed the butter mountain, we have watched our French friends beating up British lorry drivers carrying good British lamb to the French public. We have bowed and scraped, doffed our caps, tugged our forelocks and turned the other cheek but I say enough is enough.”

What got the hapless Hacker worked up was an apparent attempt by the EU to replace the British banger with the “euro sausage”.

The parallel with today’s post-Brexit ding-dong is not quite direct but it shows how the UK’s relationship with our continental cousins has had its ups and downs for decades.

George Eustice, the UK Government’s Environment Secretary, not normally given to hyperbole, denounced the prospect of a ban on British sausages being sold to Northern Ireland as “bonkers”.

It is all part of the post-Brexit to-do over the UK-EU protocol concerning trade between the mainland and Northern Ireland. At its heart is the trade border down the Irish Sea, created by Boris Johnson to get Brexit over the line but which is now coming back to haunt Downing St on a daily basis.

The upshot is that a grace period that enables Northern Irish shops to continue selling chilled meats, including sausages and mince, ends at the end of this month.

The European Commission is worried cheap goods from Northern Ireland could make their way into the single market, thus undermining it.

It has already been angered by the UK Government unilaterally extending grace periods in the protocol on supermarket goods and parcels.

So, Brussels has now warned it is prepared to act “firmly and resolutely” to ensure the UK abides by its agreed commitments and does not unilaterally grant an extension that it says would be a clear legal breach of the UK-EU trade agreement.

One concern is that the Commission might retaliate by slapping tariffs and quotas on some products entering the EU, which some fear could spark a trade war.

The Herald: Defra farm minister George Eustice

Mr Eustice complained the bloc was being overly bureaucratic and had been “slow to engage” with efforts to iron out difficulties ahead of the ending of the grace period.

The minister admitted he had “no idea” why the EU had imposed “idiosyncratic” rules on the movement of chilled meats.

“I suspect,” he declared, “it links to some kind of perception that they can’t really trust any country other than an EU country to make sausages; that’s a nonsense. We’ve got a very good sausage industry in this country, we’ve got the highest standards of food hygiene in the world.”

In a line that could have been straight out of Yes Minister, the Secretary of State added: “There’s no problem with our sausages or indeed our chicken nuggets.”

The sausage row has blown up on the eve of a meeting between Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission Vice President, and Lord Frost, the Cabinet minister for post-Brexit delivery.

Mr Sefcovic made clear Brussels was ready to play hardball to ensure that the UK abided by its international commitments.

Making clear the Commission would not tolerate further failures of compliance by London, Mr Sefcovic said: “Unfortunately, we see numerous and fundamental gaps in the UK’s implementation even though the protocol entered into force over 17 months ago.”

The timing, with G7 leaders due to touch down in Britain for their Cornish summit in the next day or so, is not great.

Joe Biden, the US President, is said to want to use the power-gathering to impress upon Boris Johnson the importance he attaches to maintaining the protocol.

Indeed, the Prime Minister has this week already had talks on the sausage row with Emmanuel Macron, the French President.

Asked what he expected Mr Biden would think of the current situation, Mr Eustice replied: “I suspect any US administration would be amazed if you were to say, for instance, a sausage from Texas couldn’t be sold to California, there would be an outright ban; they really wouldn’t understand how that could even be contemplated.”

Downing St, not for the first time, called on Brussels to show “common sense and pragmatism” to get through the latest post-Brexit impasse, complaining that Britain did not “expect the EU to take a purist approach” over the protocol.

Tonight, Mr Sefcovic and Lord Frost are expected to have dinner ahead of their talks tomorrow; it is not known if sausages will be literally on the menu.

But with civil unrest in Northern Ireland already having taken place over the Irish Sea trade border, divisions deepening within Unionist ranks over the protocol and the loyalist marching season on the horizon, a solution now needs to be found. And quickly.