11 December 2016

Will Irish-UK agri food and drinks trade be subject to WTO tariffs post Brexit?

Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development spoke today at a McCann FitzGerald trade seminar which focused on the impact that Brexit will have on the Irish-UK agri-food and drinks trade. Almost 50% of Irish agri-food exports go to the UK. 2015 exports to the UK were €4.4bn while Irish imports from the UK were £3.4bn (circa €4bn today).

The Commissioner was joined by Philip Andrews, Partner and Head of Competition, Regulated Markets, EU and Trade Law Group, McCann FitzGerald; Kevin Lane, Chief Executive Officer, Ornua; and Alan Matthews, Professor Emeritus of European Agricultural Policy, Trinity College Dublin.

In legal, economic and practical terms, what will Brexit mean for Irish and UK agri-food trade if EU – UK relations default to a WTO regime?” asked Philip Andrews. “Given increased talk of a hard Brexit, this is an incredibly important and pressing issue. Many Irish agri-food exports to the UK are commodity or unprocessed products (beef and dairy) – traditionally products subject to the highest tariff duties.”

Not since the 1930s has Irish–UK trade faced such uncertainty. Could tariffs of up to 50% apply to Irish agri-food exports to the UK? This is the level of tariffs third country producers of agri-food products can pay for access to the Single Market under existing WTO rules. Some commentators suggest that, after Brexit, similar tariffs could apply to Irish agri-food exports to the UK.” he said.

For Ireland’s agri-food industry, it is an €8.4bn question – the value of Irish-UK trade in 2015.