Agri-food sector adjustments for Brexit need to be made ‘deal or no deal’ – ICOS

A meeting is due to take place between European cooperative representatives – led by an Irish man – and the EU’s chief negotiator on UK relations and Brexit, Michel Barnier, later today, Wednesday, July 15.

The board director of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) Alo Duffy, who is also the chair of the Brexit task force of the European Farmers and Co-operatives Organisation (COPA-COGECA), will head up a meeting of the organisation with Barnier.

At the meeting, Duffy is expected to explain the provisions that COPA-COGECA want to see included in the final deal.

In addition, he will emphasise the need for contingency plans in the event a deal is not reached and proposals to preserve the all-Ireland agricultural economy.

Commenting ahead of the meeting, Duffy said:

First and foremost, we will be continuing our call for EU structural and adjustment funding to be made available to the EU agri-food sector to help us make the necessary supply chain adjustments, which are to come at the end of this year, deal or no deal.

“In this regard, we welcome the recent proposal by EU Council President Charles Michel for a €5 billion Brexit reserve fund to be set within the EU’s recovery plan to help impacted countries, including Ireland, to deal with the fall-out of the UK’s departure from the EU.

“This proposal will be debated at this Friday’s EU leaders summit and we will be pushing for a positive outcome here.”

When discussing contingency planning, Duffy said that, with the UK’s decision not to extend the transition period, “planning is needed to mitigate against a potential failure to reach agreement by the end of the year”.

Should the EU and UK fail to reach an agreement on Brexit, Irish exports would be subject to the tariffs outlined in the UK’s new Global Tariff regime.

Duffy explained:

“According to our own calculations, Irish exports of butter and cheeses alone would incur an annual tariff bill of upwards of €287 million.

Other products too, including beef and live cattle, would be subject to substantial tariffs. This would have a devastating impact on the Irish agri-food industry and lead to severe market disruption in the EU.

“We will urge the European Commission to consider alternative, temporary customs arrangements that could be implemented from the start of 2021, should a Free Trade Agreement not be ready to be implemented.

“This would allow Brexit negotiators more time to reach a deal. These temporary arrangements would need to preserve our current tariff and quota free trade, and minimise disruption for operators who already coping with the significant impacts of Covid-19,” he concluded.