EU agrees post-Brexit carve up of third country import quotas for farming produce
New quotas on the amounts of farming produce the EU will accept from third countries after Brexit was agreed in Brussels on Monday.
The EU has in place a series of “tariff rate quotas”, allowing in agricultural producers such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Latin American countries to export a certain amount of live animals, meat, dairy and other produce free of tariffs.
In preparation for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the European Council today authorised the Commission to open formal negotiations within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on how to divide up existing EU tariff rate quotas (TRQs) between the EU27 and the UK.
After Brexit, the EU will continue to apply its scheduled commitments for goods, but its existing quantitative commitments, in particular the TRQs for agricultural, fish and industrial products, will require adjustments to take into account the fact that the EU's WTO schedule will no longer be applicable to the UK.
The amended EU regulation lists products from the 11,500 tonnes of beef from the United States and Canada, for which the EU27 will take on 99.8pc, to the 228,389 tonnes of New Zealand lamb, which will be split 50-50.
The European Union needs to negotiate the new allocations with other World Trade Organization members with a substantial interest.
The preamble to regulation said that such negotiations may not be concluded given the short time period available - Britain is set to leave the EU on March 29.
However, many of those WTO members have expressed concerns and some question whether the 2013-2015 period is typical.
In cases where the EU quota is 100pc, such as Australian cheddar or Argentine garlic, these products could not be sold to Britain tariff-free.
The United States, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand and Thailand complained in a letter in 2017 that reports about how the quotas would be split risked leaving them worse off because they would lose the flexibility they currently have to sell to any country in the European Union, including Britain, depending on where the price or demand is highest.
Sinn Féin's Matt Carthy (pictured), the agriculture committee's lead MEP on the subject, says the Commission has too often thrown farmers under the bus in trade talks, and fears the same will happen when the EU and UK divvy up their agriculture quotas at the World Trade Organisation.
"I'm very critical of the overall EU trade agenda, it's very dangerous," Mr Carthy told Farming Independent. "Agriculture, in many ways, is considered to be something the EU can sacrifice to gain market access."
He also fears that a glut of UK exports post-Brexit - and extra market access for beef and lamb resulting from ongoing trade talks with the Mercosur bloc, Australia and New Zealand - will push down prices for Irish producers.
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