Britain leaving the EU without a deal and Ireland’s trading relationship with the UK reverting to World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs would have a devastating impact on Ireland, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Brexit, Simon Coveney has said.

Speaking at the annual Carrigaline Ag Talk in Cork on Monday, he said that Brexit has very real implications for Irish farmers.

A bad outcome from the Brexit negotiations is Britain leaving without a trade deal with the rest of the EU, he said.

“There will be no deal in a Brexit situation if the UK loses patience and goes it alone. I don’t believe it will happen but if it did, we would face having a trade relationship based on WTO rules.

“They will apply trade tariffs that apply under WTO rules. Believe me that would be a devastating situation for agri food trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland and Ireland and the UK as a whole."

For many dairy products, you’re talking about tariffs in around 40%, for beef up to 60% and given the fact that these are tight margin products, that type of tariff would end the trading relationship.

“Given the fact that it represents such a high percentage of our overall trade … it would have the kind of impact that believe me we cannot prepare for.

“I don’t believe that will happen, but some people threaten it because of frustration and lack of progress in the talks. I think some of that is bravado.

“The truth is that the UK can’t afford to have a no deal Brexit, and we can’t either.”

Coveney said that 38,000 Irish companies trade with Britain every week – equating to 200,000 jobs or 10% of our workforce.

“That is why we need to be cautious, careful and intelligent, but also stubborn in terms of what we insist on in the context of these negotiations.

“We’ve worked hard to get solidarity from other member states to understand the Irish issue, it’s not just a trade issue.

“It is a combination of a stable peace process that needs to be protected, a Good Friday Agreement in terms of how you do that and a trading relationship that many of you rely on.”

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