HuffPost UK understands that Michel Barnier told UK negotiators last week that it would have no issue getting the so-called “third country listing” that gives it the right to automatically export food to the EU after the transition ends on December 31.
Earlier on Wednesday, senior cabinet minister Michael Gove also confirmed there had been “progress” on the issue.
The topic was the subject of an extraordinary Twitter spat between Barnier and his opposite number, Lord David Frost, earlier this month.
It came after Barnier demanded “more clarity” from the UK about its biosecurity controls if it wants to get the automatic right to export animal products into the EU when the transition ends and Britain stops following Brussels’ rules.
The EU’s reluctance to grant a listing sparked fears in No.10 that mainland Britain could be blocked from sending animal products to Northern Ireland – because the province will follow EU rules in this area to maintain an invisible border with the Republic, under the terms of the withdrawal agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson.
The prime minister had accused the EU of attempting to impose a food “blockade” against Northern Ireland, as the row over the law-breaking Internal Market Bill raged last week.
Brussels insisted it was “not threatening food supply to Northern Ireland” and some EU figures felt the UK had manufactured a row on the issue.
HuffPost UK also understands the EU is waiting to legislation on standards promised by the UK in October before granting the listing.
But UK negotiators feel the EU was refusing to even begin the process of third-country listing as a way to get leverage in talks on a long-term trade deal.
Now, Barnier has agreed to begin the process towards third-country listing for the UK.
A Whitehall source told HuffPost UK: “It’s welcome that the EU have come to their senses and backed down on their threats which would have amounted to a blockade on British food.
“Withholding listing for the UK would have been an extraordinary step when they allow exports from dozens of countries around the world.
“It shows that the EU’s threats didn’t stem from a genuine policy concern, but were simply a politicisation of the process.”
A UK government spokesperson said: “The EU has now said to us that normal processes will be followed on third country listings.
“So there are no obstacles to listing our food and agricultural products as our food standards rules will be exactly the same as the EU’s.
“Any changes would be notified to them in the usual way with plenty of lead-time, exactly as with dozens of other countries listed by the EU.”