Ireland has to “drive the Mercosur deal back as far as we can”, and farmers have to pressure the Government to reject it, according to Eddie Punch, the general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

Punch was chairing a meeting of the association in Athlone last Thursday, June 13, where the issue of the €100 million beef fund was the main topic of discussion. However, a range of other issues also came to the fore, including the potential trade deal between the EU and the South American trading block.

“From the whole strategy point of view, this is serious, and I don’t care what political party you’re from, or if you’re from none,” he stressed.

If a Mercosur deal is done at European level, there’s going to be a real big job, and we need your help. We want everybody to join ICSA in insisting that the Irish Dáil votes against that deal.

“We’re fighting hard against it, but I’m afraid that we don’t have enough money and members in ICSA to beat Mercedes, BMW and Angela Merkel all on our own,” Punch added.

It is understood that a powerful driver towards a deal is the ambition of German car companies to open up greater access in South America.

The ICSA general secretary warned that lobbying politicians to reject a Mercosur trade deal would not be an easy job.

When it comes to it, every politician in Ireland is against the Mercosur deal, but then you get ‘well we’re a trading country and we have to try balance the good and the bad’.

Punch looked to the example of the Belgian province of Wallonia, whose regional parliament voted in 2016 to reject a potential EU trade deal with Canada. The deal later went ahead with a number of changes.

“In the short term, if Mercosur happens, the next job is to make sure that Dáil Eireann says no to it. And I don’t care what party you’re from, we really have to put pressure on politicians to keep that out,” he urged.