The proposed UK-Australia trade deal sets a perilous precedent and is very concerning for Irish beef farmers.
That is the stark warning IFA president, Tim Cullinan, issued earlier this morning (Tuesday, June 15th, 2021).
UK-Australia trade deal
He said: “Apart from the extra checks that will apply following the trade agreement reached last December, the threat to our markets is the biggest fallout for Irish farmers from the vote nearly five years ago.”
“It’s precisely the dangerous scenario that we have signalled following the Brexit vote in June 2016. Trade deals between the UK and third countries have the potential to undermine what is a very important market for our beef exports,” he added.
The presidents of the IFA and NFU will hold a bilateral meeting on Thursday to discuss the deal’s implications.
Cullinan said he supported the NFU in highlighting their concerns about the standards that apply to imports from third countries.
“We have worked closely with NFU since the Brexit vote nearly five years ago.”
“Farmers here and in the UK are committed to the highest standards. We are opposed to any trade deal that gives an opening to sub-standard food imports,” he said.
Total beef exports last year were €1.9bn, with 44% going to the UK market.
“It’s our most valuable market, in terms of volume and price. Any loss of shelf space would be very damaging for our livestock farmers, who are in a low-income sector,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Cullinan has strongly criticised the lack of scrutiny of the Climate Action Bill and has accused Minister Eamon Ryan of attempting to ram through the legislation without due process.
“The plan to ram this legislation through the Dáil on Wednesday is a cynical attempt to avoid further scrutiny of the Bill, which contains fundamental flaws,” he said.
“There are over 290 amendments put down on the Bill. These have been ignored by the Minister,” he said.
“This is a very significant piece of legislation that deserves serious debate. It will have ramifications for the future of our sector and the entire economy.”
“There has to be proper parliamentary oversight and debate where the detail of the Bill is properly scrutinised. The three Government parties cannot vote this through as it stands,” he said.
“The failure to properly discuss the issues debases democracy. We want Govt TDs to make their voice heard before it’s too late,” he said.
Cullinan said farmers have three main difficulties with the proposed legislation:
- Farms remove carbon from the atmosphere. But this, he added, is not recognised in the definition of carbon budgets in the Climate Bill;
- The Bill’s overall goal is to be climate-neutral by 2050 on a ‘net carbon’ basis. However, the proposed definition of carbon budgets in the Bill only refers to emissions and not removals. As it is currently drafted, it will also result in ‘carbon leakage’. Less food will be produced in Ireland, with more produced in countries with a higher carbon footprint, which, he warned, will increase global warming;
- The Programme for Government and the Climate Bill refers to taking account of ‘the distinct characteristics’ of biogenic methane in setting climate budgets.