'We're not planning a beef trade war with Ireland' - UK government

Talks: Tánaiste Simon Coveney with British Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington at a meeting of the British-Irish Inter- Governmental Conference in Dublin. PHOTO: JULIEN BEHAL
Talks: Tánaiste Simon Coveney with British Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington at a meeting of the British-Irish Inter- Governmental Conference in Dublin. PHOTO: JULIEN BEHAL
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

It emerged in the Dáil yesterday that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s deputy David Lidington has moved to reassure the Irish government that the UK isn't planning a trade war with Ireland over beef.

Last week the Irish Independent reported that British ministers planned to use the threat of tariffs on Irish farmers as leverage as the UK seeks a favourable Brexit deal.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney told the Dáil there were “unfortunate headlines” about trade wars over beef and using the sector to put pressure on Ireland to make concessions on the backstop to avoid a hard border with the North.

He said it prompted Cabinet Office minister Mr Lidington to call him to make it clear that the headlines weren’t coming from the British government.

Mr Coveney said “that is not to say that there are not elements within the Westminster system that are frustrated that they cannot get over this issue of the backstop and want to see some pressure being applied to Ireland.”

He added: “That is the nature of politics when there is an impasse, but trying to put Ireland under pressure in terms of beef is not a tactic or official position being adopted by the British Government.”

Beef farmers are continuing to count their losses as it emerged Irish  finishers received €85 a head less than British farmers in recent weeks amid mounting Brexit uncertainty.

The crisis in the beef trade continues as prices remain on the floor, while expectations grow that Brexit may be delayed.

However, farm organisations have warned beef finishers are already suffering from low prices at the most expensive time of the year.

ICSA beef chairman Edmund Graham said: "The reality is that Irish farmers are being hit much harder by Brexit than British farmers, even though Ireland did not cause Brexit."

Irish finishers received €85/hd less than their British counterparts for fat heifers this month, compared to a €55/hd difference in January.

The price differential between Irish and British fat cattle increased by more than 50pc over the last month.

Online Editors