A no-deal Brexit could see tariffs of up to €926 million slapped onto Irish meat exports annually – which is 53% of the value of current trade with the UK, according to Meat Industry Ireland (MII).

Exceptional targeted policy responses are required for several years to offset these impacts, the industry representative body argues.

MII director Cormac Healy stressed the impact a no-deal Brexit would have on the Irish meat sector to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday evening (Tuesday, December 8).

At the meeting, Healy said: “The new tariff schedule would apply to product entering the UK from January 1, 2021, if no trade deal is secured and is significantly more punitive than the earlier one and would see some €926 million of tariff value imposed on Irish meat exports annually, or 53% of the value of current trade with the UK.

“The most severe impact of this scenario could be partially mitigated were the UK to introduce, at a significant level, a Tariff Rate Quota [at zero or reduced tariff], for each meat sector, although it is not yet apparent that they will do so.

Without TRQs and substantial government support, there is no immediate prospect of Ireland retaining its UK market share and preventing further disturbance and an immediate crisis in the beef sector.

“Until there is clarity on whether tariffs will be introduced, businesses cannot fully prepare for the future. And the impact on the rural economy will be most acute,” Healy warned.

The director said that MII is asking the government for funding from a combination of the national contingency fund of €4 billion set aside for the years 2020 to 2025, and from the EU’s €5 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve.

This he said could be supplemented by tariff revenue from UK imports, and used “to maintain and sustain economic activity and jobs”.

“Exceptional targeted policy responses are required for several years to offset the impacts of Brexit, the variation in cost depending on whether a trade deal is agreed,” he added.

The director said that, as the EU Commission has already relaxed state aid rules, supports and funds should be targeted through the following measures:
  • A tariff support mechanism to offset the tariff amount imposed by the UK on the most exposed sectors;
  • Short-term measures to allow the Irish government to re-introduce the Employer Wage Subsidy scheme for Brexit impacted companies in a ‘no-deal’ scenario;
  • Medium-term measures to allow the Irish government to introduce investment aids to support the sector;
  • Introduction of a state supported export credit insurance scheme;
  • Additional funding for direct grant supports for innovation, marketing and trade promotion for companies looking to build new markets in the EU and internationally;
  • Ensure sufficient accompanied roll on / roll off capacity for direct ferry routes to the continent;
  • Direct supports to cover the additional ongoing costs associated with developing and maintaining customs clearance capability.

“Significant government and EU intervention will be required to protect jobs and businesses should an agreement not be reached.

“And these must be in place early in January, must be delivered at the point of trade, be of sufficient scale to offset the tariffs that we may face and that will enable Ireland to hold onto its most important market.

“Nothing less will do. The economic hit will be immediate – so too must be the response,” Healy concluded.