Irish dairy products which contain Northern Ireland (NI) milk are not eligible for any EU market support measures, should they be needed for the dairy sector, assistant secretary general at the Department of Agriculture Paul Savage has said.
These products would not be eligible for common market organisation supports, such as aid to private storage or intervention storage, as they fall outside rules of origin rules.
In order to be eligible for EU supports, all products must come from the EU and, in that case, products with NI milk would not be eligible for support.
“The [European] Commission has indicated that products which contain Northern Ireland milk, because milk is coming from outside of the customs territory of the EU, there would be an issue in relation to the eligibility of those products under those market support measures.
“We have engaged with the Commission on that and we have sought to try [to] secure access for those products.
“The Commission is saying that that's not possible, again, because of the rules of origin associated with this issue,” he said in response to a question from Jackie Cahill TD at Tuesday’s Oireachtas agriculture committee.
Rules of origin
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue told the meeting: “Under the Northern Ireland protocol, Northern Ireland remains in the UK customs territory.
“This means that goods from NI will not be considered as inputs of EU origin for the purposes of preferential tariff arrangements under European Union free trade agreements with third countries.
“The implications of this are that certain current Irish agri-food exports to third countries may, unfortunately, incur tariffs even where a free trade agreement (FTA) is in place between the EU and that third country if they do not meet the product-specific rules of origin for that product,” he said.
Savage concurred with the Minister and said there is an issue in relation to changing that situation in the short term and that the Commission “would essentially have to renegotiate all existing FTAs”.
“I think that would be a very difficult thing for the Commission to do in any event, to go to try [to] renegotiate all those agreements.
“It also raises the risk, for instance, of other issues being raised in the context of potentially trying to renegotiate those agreements.
“So there is a danger of opening up a kind of a hornet's nest if you like in terms of other issues having to be brought on to the agenda, or possibly being brought on to the agenda by those third countries, in the event we raised that issue,” he said, adding that there is an “understandable resistance on the part of the Commission to engage in detail on that”.