‘UK customs proposals could be negative for Irish agriculture’

The UK’s insistence on leaving the customs union and following an independent trade policy amounts to a hard Brexit and is potentially very negative for Irish agriculture and the value of our agri-food exports, according to the IFA (Irish Farmers’ Association) President Joe Healy.

Healy was commenting on the UK Government’s ‘Position Paper on Future Customs Arrangements’, published earlier today, which puts forward options for future customs arrangements between the EU and UK.

Healy said: “Ireland is the EU economy that will be the most impacted by a hard Brexit, and farming and agri-food will be the most impacted sector.

Ireland’s agri-food sector has a high dependence on the UK market, with 40% of exports destined for the UK market annually.

The president added: “The UK government has proposed two options – either the reinstatement of a ‘highly streamlined customs arrangement’, or a ‘customs partnership’ which it suggests would not require a customs border between the EU and UK.

“The first option would see the reinstatement of a customs border between the EU and UK. This is a very retrograde development for trade on the island of Ireland and between Ireland and Britain, after 45 years of EEC/EU integration.

“The second option, of a ‘customs partnership’ between the EU and UK, is simply not an acceptable outcome for the agriculture and food sector as, even under this arrangement, the UK would still be committed to pursuing its own trade policy for imports into the UK,” Healy pointed out.

Any increase in low-cost food imports into the UK that would undermine the value of the UK market would have a devastating effect on the Irish agri-food sector.

“The potential displacement of Irish food exports from the UK market will in turn destabilise the EU market balance.”

Concluding, the president said: “In order to safeguard the future value of the Irish and EU farming and food sector, the EU must negotiate a balanced free-trade agreement with the UK.”

Healy outlined specific conditions for agriculture and food in such an agreement, highlighting:
  • Tariff-free trade for agricultural products and food;
  • Maintenance of equivalent standards on food safety, animal health, welfare and the environment;
  • Application of the Common External Tariff for agricultural and food imports to both the EU and UK.