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No-deal brexit could spark ‘armageddon for the beef sector’

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The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) has recently reported that a no-deal Brexit could cost the Irish dairy industry €287 million.

This increased cost would arise from export tariffs after the UK Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, announced the new UK Global tariff plan.

Under the new plan, a duty of €155/100kg would be applied to cheddar cheese and €177/100kg would be applied to butter imports.

In 2019, Ireland exported over 138,000 tonnes of cheese and 42,000 tonnes of butter to the UK. Based on these export figures, without a deal, Irish dairy exports to the UK would incur a tariff bill upwards of €287 million, according to ICOS.

Urgency

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ICOS EU Affairs Executive, Alison Graham, said that the Irish dairy sector has been taking continual hits this year and cannot afford for any more barriers to be put in place.

Despite, and indeed because of, the new economic and social challenges brought about by COVID-19, reaching a trade agreement with the UK must remain a top EU and national priority and quick solutions must be found to break the current impasse in talks,” she said.

“The announcement today is an unwelcome reminder of the urgency of the discussions and the importance of avoiding and distraction or complacency around this issue.”

Tim Cullinan

Echoing the concerns of ICOS, IFA president Tim Cullinan spoke after a video conference with Tánaiste Simon Coveney and Minister Helen McEntee, saying: “Brexit is still a massive threat to Irish farming and a no deal crash-out by the UK is a real possibility if they do not change course.”

Should a no-deal scenario arise, Cullinan said that an EU Brexit fund would need to be implemented in market supports, direct payments to farmers and long-term structural and adjustment funding with special emphasis on the beef sector.

“The current EU-UK talks are not going in the right direction. The UK government is refusing to commit to a level playing field, based on the high standards demanded by consumers in the areas of food safety, animal health and the environment.”

“In Westminster, they have rejected amendments to their own Agriculture bill that would prevent lower standard food imports into Britain,” he said.

Concerns

Cullinan said he made his concerns very clear to the Tánaiste during their meeting, saying that the current direction of travel would be very damaging for Irish farming and could be “Armageddon for the beef sector.”

“The Tanáiste accepted that the COVID-19 EU package was ‘not sufficient yet’ and IFA is insisting that the Government and EU come forward with a much stronger support package including direct payments to compensate livestock farmers for ongoing losses.”

Cullinan also warned that the EU must resist the UK’s attempt to “cut corners” on their commitments, which require full SPS checks and custom controls on products entering Northern Ireland ports.

“Northern Ireland cannot become a back-door into the EU for the UK’s sub-standard, cheap food imports.”

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