Representatives of the whiskey and dairy industries have called on the Government to pressure the European Union to recognise Irish products that contain some level of input from Northern Ireland as still having EU origin status.
When the Brexit transition period ended at the start of the year, a range of goods deemed to be produced in the Republic lost their EU originating status and – as a result – their access to lower or zero preferential trade tariffs with some markets. In addition, mixed-origin dairy products manufactured in the Republic no longer have access to EU market support measures.
The goods impacted include some Irish whiskey and dairy products. What the impacted goods have in common is that they are produced primarily in the State but contain some level of inputs or processing in the North.
They lost their EU originating status under all EU trade agreements with markets around the world because the rules of origin in these accords do not recognise inputs or processing from outside the EU.
At a hearing of the Seanad special select committee on Brexit on Monday, William Lavelle, head of Ibec's Irish Whiskey Association, said a range of markets were affected.
“Irish whiskey containing Northern Irish inputs or processing have now lost access to zero or reduced tariff provided for EU free trade agreements with a range of markets including South Africa, Switzerland, Serbia, South Korea, Colombia, Vietnam and Botswana,” he said.
“As an example, the tariff facing Irish whiskeys deemed to be of EU origin in South Africa is zero while the tariff facing Irish whiskey which have lost their EU originating status is 154 cent a litre. In South Korea, it is zero compared to 20 per cent.”
Conor Mulvihill, director of Dairy Industry Ireland, another Ibec affiliate, said it was "vital" that a solution is found to allow Irish dairy products from the "integrated all-island dairy supply chain" gain access to existing and future EU free-trade agreements.
“This is an unfair and anomalous situation since milk and products produced in Northern Ireland must adhere to EU standards, with free movement being facilitated under the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol,” he said.
“The failure to designate these mixed origin dairy products manufactured in Ireland as EU is causing difficulties.”
He said segregation of milk “has never been needed and would be extremely difficult for dairy and specialised nutrition companies to achieve”.
He added that the matter was “further complicated” by the fact that there is insufficient processing capacity in Northern Ireland to handle all the milk produced there.
The representatives, who were joined by Dairy Council for Northern Ireland chief executive Dr Mike Johnston, said they had no wish for the EU to renegotiate trade agreements, but to instead consider new rules of origin, which protect cross-Border supply chains on the island.
“We are calling on the Irish Government to continue to champion the need to reform rules of origin and territoriality rules in international trade to protect and facilitate cross-Border supply chains on the island of Ireland,” they said.