Friday 19 July 2019

Varadkar won't rule out backing trade deal despite farmers' flak

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar arrives at the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. Photo: REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/Pool

Hugh O'Connell in Brussels

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has admitted Ireland cannot block a new trade deal that threatens to devastate the Irish beef industry - and has not ruled out backing the plan.

Irish farmers say the EU-Mercosur deal paves the way for an increase in imports of cheaper beef from South America and could cost them up to €750m.

But Mr Varadkar said an economic assessment would be carried out to determine if Ireland would back the deal, insisting there is "a long way to go" before it is ratified.

"If it has a positive impact, we'll be minded to vote for it," he said, while acknowledging it "will be bad for the beef sector".

The role played by Ireland's EU Commissioner Phil Hogan in negotiating the deal has raised fresh questions around his reappointment.

Asked three times about Mr Hogan's reappointment, Mr Varadkar said only that he would make a decision once a new EC president was appointed. Who that might be was the subject of negotiations among leaders in Brussels last night that went on into the early hours.

The IFA's Joe Healy said the EU-Mercosur deal was "reckless and wrong" as Brexit loomed.

Irish Independent

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