EU urged to suspend trade talks with US, Mercosur after UK vote

Irish farmers’ group says Brexit has created too much uncertainty

 

A prominent Irish farmers’ group has called on the EU to suspend trade negotiations with the US and South America until the fallout from Britain’s shock referendum result becomes clearer.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) also said all existing trade deals - including previous World Trade Organisation (WTO) deals - will have to be reviewed and amended to take account of Brexit.

ICMSA president John Comer said the implications for the EU’s pending deal with Mercosur, South America’s trading bloc, could be extremely negative.

“It is simply inconceivable that negotiations can continue in the fog of uncertainty and confusion surrounding Brexit given the direct implications regarding possible tariff reductions, concessionary imports and sensitive product status, all of which will be directly influenced by the UK’s post exit relationship with the EU,” Mr Comer said.

In relation to existing trade agreements, he noted that previous trade deals had contained significant concessions to certain third countries to take account of their historical trading relationship with the UK and the trade deals were based on the UK being part of the EU.

“It would be totally unacceptable that these concessions be continued following Brexit and, logically, the trade deals will have to be amended to take account of the new reality,” he said, citing New Zealand lamb, which has lower EU tariffs because of the country’s historic ties to Britain.

The European Commission bowed to pressure from Ireland and other member states and removed beef from its proposed trade deal with Mercosur.

The deal, which encompasses €115 billion in annual trade, had been expected to include a more preferential tariff regime for beef imports from Mercosur countries.

However, this was removed at the last-minute following a determined campaign by several member states and a host of farming organisations, including the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA).

European farmers fear they will be unable to compete with cheaper beef imports from South America, where the cost of production is significantly lower than in Europe.