McConalogue: ‘Discussions ongoing’ to solve Brexit meat question

Urgent talks are underway to avert a reported “potential two-way ban” on non-frozen processed meat products going between Ireland and the UK after Brexit.

Such a move would result in a ban on products such as mince, sausages and prepared meals going between the two entities, RTÉ has reported (Tuesday, November 24).

Commenting on the issue this morning on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue highlighted that talks are ongoing between the two sides.

“This is an issue that has been ongoing over the last number of weeks and is something that my own department had been working with the European Commission officials to discuss and tease out further,” the minister said.

Obviously it is something which is concerning; it is a reflection of the many issues which Brexit is causing.

“We haven’t had an agreed trade deal yet and discussions are still ongoing despite the intention and hope that this would have been resolved previously.”

Highlighting the importance of finalising a deal promptly, the minister added: “We’re working very hard towards that but obviously there’s going to be significant work then required in the weeks ahead as well to ensure that the trade is as smooth and efficient as possible come January 1.

“Up until recently, the UK had indicated that it wasn’t its intention to apply the same restrictions on food coming in to the UK as the EU apply in terms of imports into the EU.

However, in recent weeks, the UK indicated that it will reciprocate the same requirements that the EU has for certifying imports. That obviously now raises a question mark over chilled and non-frozen processed meat exports to the UK.

“It is really important that there is very strong engagement in the next number of weeks to look at the means by which this can be resolved.”

When quizzed on whether Irish beef exporters would require an export health cert for every consignment of beef, Minister McConalogue said:

“This issue here is specific to chilled processed meat.

Across the board from January 1, regardless of whether there is a free trade agreement negotiated in the next number of days – a week or two – or not, there’s going to be significant changes from January in that Britain will become a third country.

“And that does put additional administrative requirements on all countries exporting to Britain and it means that they need to have their paperwork and processing systems in place to ensure that they are prepared for that.”

When pushed on if there will be need for a health cert, the minister said:

“There will need to be documentation in place for all exports going to Britain; it varies across different products but certainly there will be additional certification required over and above, certainly different to how it is at the moment where Britain is part of the EU.

Each company does need to look at what is going to be required for them. Critical to all this as well will be the completion of a good trade deal as well in the next short period of time.

“If we don’t have that that will obviously make trade a lot more complicated and a lot more expensive and mean tariffs for many products too. But we are working hard to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

“Regardless of that, companies do need to prepare for January 1 to ensure that they have their systems in place so that their trade can operate,” Minister McConalogue concluded.