Draft deal reached to limit Brexit impact on agri-food trade and live exports

A draft agreement has been reached between the government and EU officials to lessen the effects of Brexit on Irish agri-food exports and live animal exports.

According to RTÉ, Irish food exports will gain access to the EU’s ‘green lanes’ network of transport routes after travelling on ferries from the UK to other EU member states.

It is thought that, without such a deal, agri-food and live animal exports would see increases in terms of costs, delays, and paperwork, with the possibility that some ports may in fact not accept Irish live exports at all.

Tim Cullinan, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), said that news of this agreement was “encouraging”.

“It is crucial that there are no barriers to trade or additional costs arising from Britain’s exit from the EU… Live animal exports are particularly important for Irish farmers to put more competition into our beef sector,” Cullinan highlighted.

“While we have yet to see the precise details of what is proposed, and it is yet to be approved by member states, the news coming from the talks is encouraging,” the IFA president added.

EU-UK trade deal talks

Separately, negotiations on an EU-UK trade deal are ongoing this week.

Giving an update on these talks yesterday, Thursday, July 2, Michel Barnier, the lead negotiator for the EU, said that “serious divergences remain” between the two sides.

Barnier said that the EU expects its “positions to be better understood and respected”.

“We continue to believe that an agreement is possible and in everyone’s interest,” the EU negotiator said.

A transition period, set out in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, is set to come to an end on December 31. If no free-trade deal is in place by then, the UK will begin trading with the EU as a ‘third country’ (a non-EU member), meaning there will be tariffs imposed on goods entering the country, including agri-food produce from Ireland.

The UK has repeatedly indicated that it has no interest in extending the transition period, despite the disruption from Covid-19.

The next round of formal negotiations is set for the week of July 20. In the meantime, further discussions will continue next week.