The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been asked to intervene “at the highest levels in Brussels” to stop an EU/Mercosur trade deal.

The president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Joe Healy has said a bad EU/Mercosur trade deal “would do untold damage to our €3 billion beef and livestock sector”.

“In view of the major Brexit implications overhanging the Irish and EU beef sector and the environmental degradation associated with Brazilian beef exports, it would be reckless to support a Mercosur deal.”

He said a no-deal Brexit would take the EU beef sector from 102% to 116% self sufficiency, with disastrous consequences for beef prices and farm incomes.

According to a statement from the IFA, the letter – addressed to the Taoiseach – is requesting him to make it clear that Ireland “would not be prepared to ratify a deal which will severely damage our vital national interest in beef production”.

There is extreme concern in Brussels that EU Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, is pushing hard to try and finalise an EU/Mercosur deal later this month.

Healy added that this would be “exploiting the current political vacuum following the European elections and before the next commission is appointed”.

“This would be further compounded with any increase in imports from Mercosur.

“How can the commission ignore the fact that in Brexit, the UK could impose tariffs as high as €850 million per annum on Irish beef and possibly the closure of market access for over 290,000t of our beef exports?”

Healy noted that a recent impact assessment showed that increased imports from Mercosur could cost the EU beef sector €5 billion to €7 billion per annum.

Concluding, the IFA president pointed out that in terms of climate change, Irish beef production systems are “four times more carbon efficient than South America”, where increased exports are driven on the back of deforestation of the Amazon rainforests.