The UK’s first post-Brexit trade deal sets a dangerous precedent for Irish food producers – farmers and food industry representatives here have warned.
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and Meat Industry Ireland have said the UK’s proposed tariff-free trade deal with Australia could hurt Irish exports to the UK, especially exports of beef, half of which goes to the UK.
The fear is that Irish beef producers will be undercut in terms of prices and standards by their Australian counterparts.
“It is our most valuable market, in terms of volume and price. Any loss of storage space would be very damaging to our ranchers, who are in a low income sector, ”said IFA President Tim Cullinan.
“Trade deals between the UK and third countries have the potential to undermine what is a very important market for our beef exports,” he said.
Last year, total Irish beef exports were valued at € 1.9 billion, of which 44 percent went to the UK market.
The deal, which is the first to be negotiated by the UK since Brexit, allows Australian food producers almost unlimited access to the UK market. It plans to gradually introduce tariff-free and quota-free access for agricultural products.
Given the distance between Australia and the UK and the fact that Australia’s main export markets are in Asia, the deal is unlikely to alter or distort the UK food market, at least to short term.
However, food producers here see the deal as an informal model for future UK deals with the US, Canada, Brazil, India and New Zealand, which could see the UK market inundated with imports. cheaper food.
“Since the Brexit vote, the potential threat posed by the UK’s future bilateral trade deals with other countries, in particular the US, Australia, Mercosur and New Zealand, has always been a serious concern for our meat exports to the UK market, ”a spokesperson said. for Meat Industry Ireland said.
“These countries are major meat exporters and are generally cheaper, and with increased access to the UK market, would intensify competition,” he said.
“We have yet to see the details of how the phase-in period will apply, but this signals increased competition for our exports to the UK market,” he said.
Food industry representatives in the UK have expressed concern over possible compromises on food standards, as the UK has banned the production and import of hormone-treated beef, which is allowed in Australia.
Downing Street said there would be a cap on duty-free imports for 15 years, with other “safeguards” that would need to be in place to protect UK farmers.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the trade deal will meet “the highest” animal welfare standards, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has insisted Australian standards are “very high”.
Meanwhile, dairy exporter Ornua praised the five-year suspension of tariffs on Irish dairy products in the United States.
Ornua, owner of the Kerrygold brand, is responsible for 90% of butter exported from the EU to the US “and these punitive tariffs were an unwanted and unnecessary barrier to doing business,” he said.
Tariffs were suspended at the foot of the EU and the United States who agreed to a truce in a transatlantic dispute over aircraft subsidies that had lasted for 17 years.