Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

IFA lobbies Barnier for zero tariffs regime

IFA president Joe Healy in discussions with the EU's chief Brexit begotiator Michel Bernier
IFA president Joe Healy in discussions with the EU's chief Brexit begotiator Michel Bernier

Sarah Colllins

The Irish Farmers' Association has called for a "comprehensive free-trade agreement" between the EU and UK post-Brexit that would keep tariffs at zero and health and safety standards as they are.

It also wants the EU and UK to impose the same import tariffs on goods from other parts of the world.

Following a meeting with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, in Brussels, IFA president Joe Healy acknowledged that upcoming Brexit talks would be "very difficult".

But just how difficult those talks will be is becoming more evident as they get under way.

At the end of March, British prime minister Theresa May set the clock ticking on two years of negotiations, with the EU setting the terms.

Those terms - set out in draft 'negotiating guidelines' - say that a future trade deal will only be discussed after enough progress is made on the divorce deal.

Last week, EU government officials - minus Britain - held a first meeting on the text, and are already starting to put pressure on the UK over residency rights for citizens post-Brexit, their number one priority in the divorce.

According to a source in the room during the closed-door talks, countries complained about increasing difficulties their citizens have been facing when applying for UK residency.

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Two sources said they expect language on citizens to be toughened up ahead of an EU leaders' summit on April 29, when the EU guidelines will be approved.

Rights for Irish citizens are expected to be guaranteed under the common travel area, with the draft guidelines acknowledging "existing bilateral agreements" between Ireland and the UK.

Sources said there may also be tweaks to the wording on the UK's divorce bill, a second major priority for the EU.

The 27 EU governments will continue to fine-tune their negotiation texts before entering talks with the UK in late May or early June.

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