EU trade deal post-Brexit carve-up on quotas 'dangerous' for farmers
A row over post-Brexit import quotas has reared its head again, with the EU fighting battles both internally and internationally.
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.
MEPs are set to vote next week in favour of a 2017 proposal to carve out a UK share of the EU's existing WTO quotas, leaving other countries with the same level of market access to the EU and UK combined, as they do now (with the UK as a member).
Agriculture MEPs are pushing for a final say on the carve-up, which they say hands the Commission too much power at farmers' expense.
But Mr Carthy says a "bizarre alliance" of conservative MEPs - including Fine Gael, UK Tories and Ulster Unionists - is likely to defeat his draft changes and give the Commission the ultimate say.
The deal, based on an average of UK imports over the last three years, has also proven unpopular at the WTO, with a group of countries, including New Zealand, Brazil and the US, pushing for more market access post-Brexit. The EU has 87 agriculture-related quotas on its WTO list (or 'schedule'), which is still pending official certification since Croatia joined the EU in 2014.
At an October WTO meeting, "several" countries expressed "concern" over how the EU is calculating the quota carve-up, with some even questioning whether a renegotiation is possible given the schedule is pending certification.
They are also keen to see what kind of market access the EU and UK offer each other in any post-Brexit trade deal to be announced.
"Brexit should not result in a loss of market access that was established through previously negotiated outcomes," they said in a statement.
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