Farm Ireland

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Will the UK adopt a 'cheap food' policy post Brexit?

What direction the UK takes its agri-food policy will impact on Ireland.
What direction the UK takes its agri-food policy will impact on Ireland.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

What sort of food and agriculture policy the UK decides to follow outside the EU will determine a lot for Irish agri-food exports

The former Taoiseach John Bruton has said that the impact on the Irish agri-food sector of Brexit will all hinge on what sort of food and agriculture policy the UK decides to follow outside the EU.

"Will they go for a “cheap food” policy like they had before they joined the EU 40 years ago or will they retain current supports for farmers and rural life?" he asked at the ICMSA AGM where he was keynote speaker.

Bruton, a former EU Ambassador to the US, said that there is no indication so far as the what choice they will make, at least after 2020.

But he said that the Future Framework negotiation will have a direct relevance on the agri-food sector as it will determine whether or not the EU Common External Tariff will have to be levied on agricultural products coming into Ireland from the UK, or Northern Ireland.

"How the origin of imports from the UK will be verified to ensure that they are not dumping third country products on our market and how veterinary and food safety standards will be verified, and how and by whom smuggling will be suppressed," will have to be addressed, he said.

He also questioned whether or not geographic indicators will be recognised and if there will be a tariff free quota to allow existing trade levels to continue or if all trade will bear the appropriate tariff.

"The tariff issue will be particularly difficult in the food sector, because this is the sector in which the EU has the highest tariffs, and restrictions, on third country imports in order to protect the incomes of EU farmers."

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Negotiations about product  safety, rules of origin, and related issues will arise with all products and services, even those to which no tariff applies, because once it has left the EU, the UK will be free to depart from recognised EU standards, Bruton said.

"If the UK rejects the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, as Prime Minister May says she will, there will no longer be a referee to interpret the rules of the shared market, and all markets need a referee."

As well as tariffs and trade, that agreement had to cover product testing and standards as well as

ICMSA President John Comer said Brexit presents the biggest single challenge that the Irish agri-food sector has faced in decades.

"But we have to keep reminding ourselves that we’re not entirely bystanders in this process: we have a voice and we should be articulating our national interest right now – early and often. The Irish Government, the UK Government and the EU all have it within their powers to ensure a relatively smooth transition and they need to announce that as their ambition."

He said an agreement is needed between the EU and the UK that protects both economies and protects the livelihoods dependent on trade between the two parties.

"Ireland has a centuries-old food export trade with England particularly and that has to continue."

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