Sunday 19 November 2017

Lessons from history show the dangers of striking a bad trade deal with Britain

‘Britain could reduce tariffs on agricultural produce from the rest of the world, making Irish produce uncompetitive’
‘Britain could reduce tariffs on agricultural produce from the rest of the world, making Irish produce uncompetitive’

Cónán Ó Broin

Much of the Brexit focus in recent months has centred on the fate of the Border, and the potential positive effects on the Irish economy of commercial relocation of financial services operations from London to Dublin.

However, not enough attention is being paid to the potential effects on the Irish agri-food business if, as now seems likely, Britain leaves the customs union. This was not something that was envisaged even after the vote to leave the EU but is now part of the UK government's planning.

The agri-food sector is Ireland's largest indigenous industry, employing 8.4pc of the working population, or 165,000 people. The €26bn sector contributes enormously to the viability of communities in rural Ireland, in places far away from Dublin where job creation and economic activity is sorely needed. The agri-food sector is export-orientated, accounting for 10.7pc of Irish merchandise exports, with 37pc of agri-food exports, and 50pc of Irish beef, going to the UK. However, that trade takes place under two crucial conditions, both of which are imperilled by the move of the UK to leave the customs union.

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