Why the 'Steaks' are so high on EU beef deal with South American countries

REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
REUTERS/Bruno Kelly
Richard Curran

Richard Curran

Big Phil Hogan was making all of the right noises down at the National Ploughing Championships.

The European Commissioner for Agriculture emphasised how EU (and obviously Irish) markets would be protected from cheap beef imports as part of any trade deal currently being concluded between the EU and South American countries like Brazil and Argentina.

Hogan wants to keep the volume of beef allowed in from South America through tariff-rate quotas as low as possible. Raising recent beef scandals in Brazil, he referred to the EU's current requirement for 100pc inspections of beef products from Brazil at the point of entry to the EU.

He is absolutely right to raise this issue and seek to protect the interests of Irish beef producers. However, the UK has said it plans to do a raft of new trade deals with countries like Brazil after Brexit.

If the UK cuts a trade deal which didn't maintain a 100pc inspection regime on Brazilian beef entering the UK, customs checks on the lookout for Brazilian beef coming into Ireland would have to be posted along the border with the North.

How could a "frictionless" border function when Brazilian beef could freely enter Northern Ireland but would then have to be inspected and tariffed along the border?

No wonder farming groups here are calling for an immediate suspension of all trade talks between the EU and Mercosur (Latin American countries including Brazil and Argentina) until a final deal around Brexit has been agreed and signed-off.

Let's just say the 'steaks' are very high.

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