The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said the imposition of tariffs as outlined by UK proposals in a no-deal Brexit would put Irish farmers in a “vulnerable position”, threatening the Irish beef sector and seriously damaging the country’s agri-food exports.
The publication of proposed tariffs, were the UK to bounce out of Europe, has rattled the agricultural sector with the IFA claiming farmers now need to hear more from both the Irish Government and the EU about what supports would come into play if no deal is agreed by March 29. IFA president Joe Healy said Irish farmers are in “an awful vulnerable position”, and especially the beef sector, which currently exports half its produce to the UK. It could face tariffs of 53%.
“Realistically it would be armageddon for the Irish beef sector,” he said. “Farmers need to see a bit more from the EU on what sort of supports are going to be there [in the event of tariffs being imposed]. This week of uncertainty has only added fuel to the fire.”
Earlier, the IFA’s livestock chairman Angus Woods told RTÉ Radio: “The obvious thing that would happen here is that Irish beef is displaced from the UK market. You’re looking at consequences which would affect the whole European market, in terms of Irish beef would more than likely be displaced from the UK and spread right across the European beef market which is already under pressure at the moment.
“This has a much wider, broader knock-on effect right across the continental European market.”
The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) said it is deeply concerned at tariffs that might now be imposed. ICMSA president Pat McCormack said the imposition would be catastrophic and could make some trade completely unviable.
“The effects would be felt quite literally in every parish from the perimeter of Dublin Airport westwards to Connemara and from Malin Head south to Mizen Head,” he said.
He also reiterated the ICMSA warning from last summer against the tactic of “overtly prioritising the ‘North-South Political’ over the ‘East-West Economic’” and for Government to give farmers “parity of focus in their strategy”.
He said that had not happened and ICMSA’s worst fears about drifting towards what would be an economic catastrophe for rural Ireland are now being borne out. Possible tariffs on fish being exported into the UK also sparked alarm among fishermen. Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation CEO Seán O’Donoghue said there is now “a heightened state of anxiety” surrounding how events may unfold in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been beating this drum for a long time in stating that the seafood and fishing industries are uniquely exposed given the sharing of fishing grounds with the UK,” said Mr O’Donoghue.
“The Department of the Taoiseach reiterated last night that all of the important commercial fish stocks which we rely on are shared with the UK and approximately one-third of all landings of fish by Irish vessels come from UK waters. “An orderly Brexit is imperative. Otherwise we face chaos and conflict on the high seas in the very near future, not to mention the major conflict issues around exports and landings.”