Farm leaders in last-ditch battle against Mercosur deal

IFA President Joe Healy and IFA Livestock Chairman Angus Woods lead IFA National Officers and members in a protest at the EU Commission offices in Dublin yesterday, where they met the head of the European commission in Ireland Gerry Kiely. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
IFA President Joe Healy and IFA Livestock Chairman Angus Woods lead IFA National Officers and members in a protest at the EU Commission offices in Dublin yesterday, where they met the head of the European commission in Ireland Gerry Kiely. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
IFA President Joe Healy. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Farm leaders were last night fighting a rearguard action against a sign-off on the Mercosur trade deal between the EU and South American countries.

Details of the deal, which could allow almost 100,000 tonnes of South American beef into the EU, are expected to be shared with Member States today in Brussels.

One senior official said yesterday that this is "the closest to a Mercosur deal being struck as we've ever been at" after almost 20 years of negotiations.

Farming organisations continued to keep pressure on to prevent a deal that they have warned will be devastating for the Irish beef sector.

IFA president Joe Healy called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to veto a bad Mercosur deal. "As it stands, the proposals are very bad and will seriously damage our beef sector. The Taoiseach needs to plant our flag in the ground and say Ireland will not go along with the charade of a raft of climate actions in Europe, while encouraging the destruction of rainforests in Brazil," he said.

Mr Healy claimed it was completely contradictory for Ireland to sign up to a deal that would bring in more beef from Brazil so soon after the publication of the Climate Action Plan.

"The Taoiseach says the Mercosur countries must comply with EU environmental standards. They don't, and both the Taoiseach and the EU Commission know this, because they have the evidence," he said.

"In view of the major Brexit implications overhanging the Irish and EU beef sector, and the environmental degradation associated with Brazilian beef exports, it would be reckless to support a Mercosur deal."

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The belief in Brussels is that EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom is pushing hard to try and finalise an EU-Mercosur deal in the next week or so.

The move is backed by the German government, who see the Mercosur markets of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay as an emerging outlet, particularly for cars.

The IFA claim that Europe's farmers are being sacrificed in the interests of industry.

"The EU Commission Joint Research Centre conducted an assessment on the cumulative impact of trade deals which showed that increased imports from Mercosur could cost the EU beef sector €5bn to €7bn per annum," said Mr Healy.

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