Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has urged pleaded with farmers not to desert the Government over the Mercosur trade deal, saying it is “not a done deal” and that Ireland can still make changes to protect the vital farming sector.
Mr Creed made the last ditch request for patience as thousands of farmers lashed Fine Gael outside the gates of Leinster House for what they claim has been a “selling out” of the sector.
Speaking during a Dáil debate on a Sinn Féin motion to scrap the Mercosur deal, Mr Creed said he understands farmer concerns over “aspects” of the trade agreement, which will see up to 99,000 tonnes of non-traceable Brazilian beef enter the EU market.
The deal, which will also see wider trading arrangements on EU products being sent to and from Latin America, has the potential to cause €750m worth of damage to Irish farmers.
However, while acknowledging the risks involved, Mr Creed emphasised the Government’s new mantra on the deal that it can be altered in the coming months, saying it is “not a done deal” and that changes will be made.
“It [the deal] has not been ratified by a single council of trade ministers, has not been approved by the European Parliament, and has not been ratified by a single government of any member state.
“What will happen between now and the final transposition of this into a legal document is that in the intervening period we will have an opportunity to influence what the detail is of the headline agreement that has been put in front of us,” said Mr Creed.
The agriculture minister’s comments were backed by Business Minister Heather Humphreys, who admitted said the deal “is not perfect”.
However, Ms Humphreys risked infuriating already angry farmers after telling the Dáil that international trade deals are a two-way street and bring hundreds of millions of euro into the country, and that it is “ironic” that critics sound like Brexiteers seeking isolationist trade policies.
The Dáil debate took place as a result of a Sinn Féin motion to scrap the Mercosur deal, which heard Sinn Féin TD John Brady describe the Government’s response as “a lot of bull” and party colleague Brian Stanley warn that “we want the Government to stand up for Irish interests and resist this disastrous deal”.
Fianna Fáil’s agriculture spokesperson Charlie McConalogue said farmers have “made it clear” they do not support the deal, while colleague Jackie Cahill labelled the deal Mercosur agreement as it a “sell-out”, among other opposition politicians.Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett added: “The Government and the EU have stabbed the farmers of this country in the back.”