UK tariffs on agricultural trade would damage Irish economy – Coveney

Any UK tariffs on agricultural trade between the UK and the Republic would be very damaging to the Irish economy, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister has warned.

Simon Coveney said businesses, farmers and consumers both in Ireland and the UK would be damaged by tariffs in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

The British government outlined its temporary no-deal plans on Wednesday, stating that no import tariffs would apply to goods entering Northern Ireland across the Irish border.

But tariffs of up to 40% in some cases are planned for products being exported from the Republic to the UK.

“Undoubtedly any tariff being imposed on agricultural product between the UK and Ireland will be very damaging and we will need to respond to that appropriately and we will as a government,” Mr Coveney said.

He said the Irish government was in close contact with the EU on the issue of state aid supports and that agriculture officials were scheduled to meet European Commission officials about the issue on Wednesday.

“The crisis here, the problem here and the uncertainty linked to Brexit all emanate from an inability of the British Parliament to be able to give a clear signal through majority support on what they’re willing to support and ratify,” the Foreign Affairs Minister said.

“We will continue to advocate for a sensible deal that emerged after two-and-a-half years of negotiation that solves many of these problems.”

The Tanaiste added that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the government would look for a further relaxation of state aid rules and for EU supports for businesses.

“The solidarity is clear. There is no pressure on Ireland to change our approach in relation to the Withdrawal Agreement, the Irish protocol in it or indeed the backstop in all of its detail,” Mr Coveney said.

“The pressure is in London. That is where the crisis is emanating from and that is where we need to see solutions emerge from.”

He added: “It’s up to the British political system and the British government to try and find a way of resolving its own issues.”

The Tanaiste made the comments in response to questions from the opposition in the Dail on Wednesday.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the UK government’s proposed tariff regime would have “very potentially devastating” implications for Irish farming.

“It would have the impact of devastating the rural Irish economy and indeed sectors of our agricultural industry,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Coveney said that the opposition did not need to impress on him the importance of the issue.

He added that the Irish parliament would meet “if it has to” in the coming week to respond to political decisions being debated in Westminster.

The Dail is scheduled to take a break on Wednesday night and is not due to meet again until March 26.

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