Brexit a threat to Franco-Irish alliance

Cantillon: France fears porous Irish Border could let cheap UK food imports into EU

Having an additional 270,000 tons of Irish beef, which currently goes to the UK, bounced onto the EU market after Brexit would have negative implications for French producers. Photograph: Getty Images

Having an additional 270,000 tons of Irish beef, which currently goes to the UK, bounced onto the EU market after Brexit would have negative implications for French producers. Photograph: Getty Images

 

When it comes to agriculture, France has traditionally been Ireland’s go-to country.

On issues like reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the CAP budget or opposition to trade deals with the US and Mercosur, South America’s trading bloc, Ireland and France are typically aligned, reflecting the importance of the farming industry in each country.

However, Brexit has potentially placed a splinter in this entente cordiale. While Ireland is keen to ensure the UK’s departure does not result in the re-establishment of a hard Border for political and economic reasons, France is equally anxious to avoid a porous Irish Border.

The fear is that if the UK does its own trade deals with the US, Mercosur and others, its market will be flooded with cheap food products that could find their way into the EU market via a loose arrangement between us and the North.

Christophe Hillairet, a council member of Copa, Europe’s largest farm organisation, recently said he was afraid the UK would sign agreements to import food from Commonwealth countries once it exits the EU’s customs union. He said the only way to stop these imports finding their way into the Republic and the wider EU was for strict Border controls.

Ireland has some leverage of its own in this fight, however. Being locked out of the UK’s market will inevitably result in our produce being displaced onto the EU market.

When the Russian food ban was introduced against EU states in 2016, the big problem was not necessarily the ban itself but the amount of product it pushed back onto the EU market.

Having an additional 270,000 tonnes of Irish beef, which currently goes to the UK, bounced into Europe after Brexit would have extremely negative implications for French producers.

Copa beef president Jean Pierre Fleury, a bigwig in French agriculture, was in Ireland last week for talks with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and it’s obvious this was a point the IFA was keen to get across.

In a press statement released shortly after the meeting by the IFA, Fleury was quoted as saying: “European farmers understand that if there is not an acceptable solution to Brexit, particularly on beef, then this will become a problem for the European beef market.”

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