ICSA's Eddie Punch

‘Temporary derogation’ may avert chilled meat problem - Punch

Damian McCarney

The EU should consider employing a “temporary derogation” to resolve the problems in selling Irish chilled processed meat into a post-Brexit Britain, say the ICSA.

Eddie Punch told The Anglo-Celt that the minister has must try to exert pressure on the EU in order to avoid a major headache for the beef sector.

As things stand, from January 1 chilled processed meat products, such as mince, sausages and prepared meals will not be permitted to be sold from Britain into any part of Ireland. However, it emerged this week that the UK intends to place a reciprocal ban on products travelling the other way across the Irish Sea.

Officials from both the EU and UK have reportedly been working to find solutions to the issue.

Mr Punch said that the issue “came out of the blue” as they had not been informed of it by the Department.

Speaking on RTÉ, Minister Charlie McConalogue, said his officials have been working with the EU Commission to “tease out” the issues, and talks were also held under the special committee overseeing the implementation of the Irish protocol.

“It is something which is concerning,” said the Fianna Fáil minister, “it is a reflection of the many issues which Brexit is causing, also the fact we haven’t had an agreed trade deal yet.”

He noted that the UK side had previously indicated that they wouldn’t impose a reciprocal ban. The unwanted development has emerged at an advanced stage of Brexit negotiations, however Minister McConalogue said he didn’t think it was “brinkmanship”.

“It’s very much a reflection of the challenges Brexit poses,” he said.

Eddie Punch of the ICSA stressed that the issue is “potentially a big big problem for beef exports”.

“Half of our beef exports go to the UK, mince in some cases is up to 40% of beef in some outlets, but this varies a lot,” he explained.

He said shipping frozen beef for processing in the UK would result in losses for the Irish beef sector.

“We have moved beyond shipping large sides of beef. We are adding that bit of value here in a lot of cases. And it is more efficient in some ways as well to do the further processing here – some of the meat factories are geared up for doing that and therefore they are sending out prepacked beef, particularly for example to retail customers – that’s why this is quite difficult. It doesn’t mean a complete ban on beef – it just add a lot of problems, and potentially adds cost and takes away value we could add here in Ireland.

“Either we decide to export further processing to the UK, or we decide to export the frozen product and take the hit on it. But in any event I don’t think it is feasible that we export frozen beef, for example, to a supermarket customer who wants chilled beef delivered direct to their door. We have to find a way around it, but any way you look at it, there is an opportunity cost.”

He says that the most realistic way to resolve the problem is through Europe, and the minister must stress the significance of the issue with his EU colleagues.

“Perhaps there is some type of derogation that could be applied by the EU to the UK, and they would apply a derogation to us in return.”