Marian Harkin TD
The beef and sheep sectors, together with a range of small business, needed and deserved, immediate strong focus by the government in responding to the challenges posed by Brexit.
This was the major focus by Marian Harkin TD in addressing Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in a debate in the Dáil on the Brexit negotiations.
She emphasised the value of the beef and sheep sectors for her constituency and asked what steps the Government was taking in the face of the many challenges facing them.
She said that 250,000 tonnes of beef were exported to the UK from Ireland every year and the possible imposition of tariffs would totally undermine that trade and would collapse the market.
She pointed out that the UK currently exported 100,000 tonnes of beef to the EU but if the UK did not adhere to current environmental, sanitary and phytosanitary regulations it was highly likely that those volumes would not continue post Brexit.
In these circumstances Deputy Harkin asked what measures were in place for Irish beef to replace UK beef on the EU market.
There was also a new campaign in the UK which was directed against importation of beef from Ireland and other countries to be replaced by UK production and this needed to be factored into Ireland’s plans for the beef sector.
Despite the recent support measures for the beef sector, such as the beef exceptional aid measure, BEAM, and beef finisher pandemic payments, the estimated losses in the sector, as a result of COVID and Brexit, amounted to €273 million, she said. She made a strong plea for further supports for the beef industry.
Deputy Harkin said that the extensive cross-border live trade in sheep was imperilled by the fact that, as yet, there was no measure in place to ensure the same food standards, animal health, sanitary and phytosanitary regulations and measures to prevent Ireland becoming a back door for UK produce to the EU market.
She called for immediate action to combat problems which would arise for exporters using the UK land bridge to access EU markets.
There was, she said, the immediate need to increase direct sailings to the EU, not just to the French ports but also to ports in Northern Europe such as Antwerp or Hamburg.
She also asked if any thought had been given to the possible use of Northern Ireland ports for direct sailings to northern Europe ports.
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