Commenting on reports circulating today that the Argentine President is confident that a deal between the South American Mercosur group of states and the EU will be signed by the end of this year, the President of ICMSA, John Comer, said that concluding – or even progressing with – such a deal in the context of the massive uncertainty generated by Brexit would be reckless and hugely destabilising.
Mr. Comer said that any possibility of a Mercosur agreement was premised on the idea of massively increased imports of South American beef in volumes that had to severely impact the prices and incomes of indigenous EU farmers and that, he pointed out, was even before the possibility of the UK market becoming harder to access through tariffs and quotas. As early as last Summer in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, ICMSA had called for the Irish Government to insist on the immediate suspension of the ongoing talks around both Mercosur and TTIPS until such time as the situation around the UK’s leaving became clear and that process had been either resolved or was moving towards a post-Brexit position of mutual agreement.
Neither of those situations applied now and, in fact, the serious negotiations had not even begun. To even contemplate ‘throwing open’ the EU market to huge volumes of South American food imports while the domestic EU situation was so fluid and uncertain was absolutely reckless and could not be considered as a serious proposal.
The ICMSA President said that the possibility of an agreement by the year’s end had to be firmly taken off the table on the grounds that the EU would be unable to enter into any damaging international trade agreement until such time as the Brexit challenge was dealt with fully. In addition to that reality, there was also the pressing and still unresolved matter of the widespread fraud recently uncovered in the Brazilian meat industry and the impossibility of continuing to place trust in a sector that had so demonstrably and repeatedly failed to meet its own dubious standards.
Mr. Comer said that the Irish Government must move immediately to convince other Member States and the EU itself that it was overwhelmingly in the EU’s interests that no Mercusor agreement is concluded - or even continued with - until some degree of clarity and certainty was brought to what is still an unfolding and fluid situation that will certainly have many twists and turns.