Farm Ireland

Monday 25 March 2019

Coveney: EU will bail us out of beef trade war with UK

=Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Frank McGrath
=Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Frank McGrath
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the EU Commission will bail out Ireland’s beef industry if a no-deal Brexit sparks an agri-food trade war.

Mr Coveney said the Commission has “made it very clear” that they will “support and protect” the Irish agriculture industry if Britain crashes out of the EU without a trade deal.

The Tanaiste was responding to revelations that Britain is threatening to favour Brazilian beef over Irish produce by using a new system of quotas and tariffs.

He said the Commission “recognises the vulnerability” of Ireland’s beef sector in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary raised the threat to the beef industry with Mr Coveney in the Dáil. Mr Calleary said beef farmers who are already feeling the impact of Brexit are “hugely angry” over the Govenment’s “in action”.

He accused the Government of taking an “it will be alright on the night” approach as the Brexit deadline looms on March 29.

The Dail debate followed reports that UK Food and Rural Affairs Secretary Michael Gove is planning "tariff rate quotas" to allow certain amounts of produce into the UK without tariffs.

This would apply to products like poultry and beef – and would benefit massive producers such as Brazil at Ireland’s expense. Brazil produces huge amounts of beef cheaply so would be able to flood the UK market.

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But currently it is subject to World Trade Organisation tariffs when it sends beef to Britain, while Ireland is exempt as part of the EU single market, giving farmers here a €3 advantage per kilo of beef.

It is believed that Mr Gove is using the threat of tariffs on Irish farmers as leverage as the UK seeks a favourable deal. He hopes that the sizeable rural lobby in Ireland will exert pressure on the Government here to yield on the issue of the backstop.

The threat of harsh trade conditions has chilling echoes of the bitter Anglo-Irish trade war of the 1930s which saw 20pc tax duties on some imports including cattle.

Online Editors