Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

Import hikes and cheap food policy biggest Brexit threats

Dr Edgar Morgenroth
Dr Edgar Morgenroth
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

Import prices hikes and a cheap food policy in UK are the biggest threats to Ireland's agri-food sector post Brexit, a leading economist has warned.

Although farm groups, politicians and ag industry leaders have been primarily focused on Brexit's threat to meat and dairy exports due to the potential enforcing of punitive tariffs, Dr Edgar Morgenroth, research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), says imports will take the biggest hit.

He also believes the UK may yet do a "U-turn" on Brexit due to the level of "self-harm" it is set to cause their economy.

Speaking at 'Hard Cheese - a major seminar on Brexit, jobs and farming', Dr Morgenroth said: "We tend to look at exports as the impact of Brexit, but there is a good chance that the impact through imports is going to be far worse.

"If you look at our trade patterns, around 15pc of our goods exports go to the UK, but around 30pc of our goods imports come from the UK.

"If there are going to be tariffs, it's going to affect our imports and exports. A range of food products that come in here from the UK will rise in prices," he said, adding that the ESRI are currently doing an analysis of this area.


At the event, opened by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and organised by trade unions IMPACT, SIPTU and the Charter Group, the TCD professor also raised serious concerns over a potential cheap food policy in the UK.

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"In my view, the UK is going to be worse off with a Brexit economically, substantially worse off," he said.

"It's quite uncertain that there will be a Brexit, there could still be some kind of a U-turn. But they could potentially reduce that negative impact by making the consumers better off through cheap food imports, and that of course impacts on us."

Although he believes the Government has been progressive on Brexit, he said hard decisions will ultimately be decided by the UK.

"Obviously the Government is an important part in shaping what will happen but most of the decisions are actually down to the UK government and how much influence we will have on that is pretty limited."

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