UK confirms high tariffs for Irish food exports if Brexit trade talks fail

New tariff schedule confirms particular problems for the Irish beef sector

High tariffs would apply on many Irish food exports to the United Kingdom if a deal is not successfully negotiated between the European Union and UK, according to new details published by the British government.

A new tariff schedule produced by the UK government confirms that for most agriculture products, tariffs equivalent to those charged by the EU on imports from third countries will be applied, meaning particular problems for the Irish beef sector.

On Wednesday, the UK government published the tariff levels which will apply from next January if a trade deal is not done with the EU. It removes or reduces tariffs in some areas, but proposes to levy penal tariffs on many food imports to protect the UK agricultural sector. The UK government says 60 per cent of products imported after Brexit would be tariff free.

Lucrative market

Ireland’s beef industry is particularly reliant on the UK market, which takes over half of exports. Industry bodies have previously estimated that tariffs equivalent to almost half the value of existing exports would be applied under WTO tariff levels. This would mean a lot of product effectively priced out of the most lucrative market for Irish beef exports.


High tariffs would also apply for many dairy products and for processed foods, though there are some proposed changes in the way these are calculated. Other sectors, such as engineering, will also be examining the proposed tariff schedule to see if there are any benefits from the reductions on goods going into UK supply chains. The EU would also impose tariffs on UK goods if a deal is not done, pushing up prices for Irish shoppers, particularly for many grocery items.

If the UK and EU do reach a trade deal before the end of the year, then the goal will be to avoid the imposition of many of the tariffs.The UK has insisted that it will not agree to extend the transition period beyond the end of this year, which would give more time to reach a trade deal.

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor

Cliff Taylor is an Irish Times writer and Managing Editor