Irish agriculture at a ‘huge disadvantage’ post-Brexit – McGuinness

MEP Mairead McGuinness has said that agriculture in Ireland will be at a “huge disadvantage” post-Brexit, especially if there is a no-deal outcome.

Her comments come after the latest round of Brexit talks in London.

Speaking to EuroParlRadio, she said that Ireland is the country that will be impacted greatest “even if there is a deal”.

WTO rules a ‘hammer blow’ to agriculture sector

However, in the event of there being no deal, McGuinness said Ireland’s agriculture sector will be “particularly badly hit – our dairy and our beef exports to the UK”.

“Tariffs would kick in and that would put us at a huge disadvantage,” McGuinness said.

“If we have to revert to the World Trade Organisation [WTO] rules in the event of a no-deal being reached with the UK, then tariffs on agriculture exports would immediately kick in.

This would put us at a huge disadvantage, it would rise the cost of Irish food on the UK market and we don’t know what the UK would do in terms of bringing product from other countries outside of the European Union.

“If WTO rules were to kick in from January 1, the sector would take quite a hammer blow.”

‘Sector already being hit by the pandemic’

McGuinness said it is important that the €5 billion Brexit reserve fund, which has been allocated as part of the EU’s Covid-19 financial recovery package, is “ring-fenced, that it will not be touched other than for Brexit purposes”.

“The agriculture sector [in Ireland] is already being hit by the pandemic because of the closure of a lot of restaurants and hotels.

“I think it’s really important that the €5 billion is ring-fenced. I do know that the European Parliament knows Ireland is front and centre of being really impacted by a Brexit deal that isn’t particularly positive.”

‘Trying to please all member states’

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus has shown concerns that the €5 billion will not be enough to alleviate the damage of Brexit.

He told EuroParlRadio that the amount allocated will not be enough to “spread out amongst 27 member states”.

“While we don’t know how the €5 billion will be allocated – the commission will look at that after Brexit – it won’t be enough,” MacManus said.

“Ireland will hopefully get a heavier portion of that but the concern would be that the commission would be trying to please all 27 member states and giving everybody, even those who are not affected in any way, a similar amount to Ireland.”