Friday 23 August 2019

Creed backs Phil Hogan for role despite Mercosur concerns

Phil Hogan, the EU’s agriculture commissioner. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Phil Hogan, the EU’s agriculture commissioner. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Wayne O’Connor

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has defended European Commissioner Phil Hogan’s role in the Mercosur trade agreement as he moved to blame Fianna Fail’s European Group for a deal that threatens Irish beef exports.

Mr Creed said he would support Mr Hogan being prenominated to represent Ireland on the European Commission, despite previously expressing his disappointment that the European market could be flooded with South American beef leaving Irish farmers at a competitive disadvantage.

The Agriculture Minister defended Commissioner Hogan’s track record but reiterated his intention to frustrate the approval of the deal within Europe.

Fine Gael TDs and Ministers have raised doubts about Mr Hogan’s reappointment in recent days but Mr Creed said his colleagues should take time to “reflect” on the deal.

“This was a deal that was negotiated by the Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström who, bearing in mind where some of the criticism comes from, is part of the Fianna Fail family in Europe,” Mr Creed told RTE’s Countrywide this morning.

Ms Malmström is a member of Sweden’s Liberals Party, which is part of the ALDE European grouping with Fianna Fáil.

Charlie McConalogue, Fianna Fáil’s agriculture spokesman previously labelled the Mercosur deal a “disaster” for Irish farmers.

Mr Creed said he is disappointed with the outcome of the deal, which would see 99,000 tonnes of South American beef allowed into the European market every year, but added he supports Mr Hogan being returned as Ireland’s representative in the European Commission.

He said efforts must be made to protect Irish farmers and insisted Mr Hogan was the right person to represent their interests.

“If beef was excluded I would be at the front of the queue and clapping this agreement,” Mr Creed said.

“We are particularly exposed here and sitting on our hands while this debate is raging is not an option.

“I ask the question, who would people prefer to have around the Commission table, particularly in agriculture at the present time? Somebody who understands the deal.

“I would have been in daily and certainly weekly contact with the commissioner on a whole range of issues, including this, and he has been exceptionally helpful.”

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