Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness said there was deep concern among members of the Parliament about the deal and its implications for the beef market. She said it would be heavily scrutinised.
“Ireland is a trading nation, so in principle we support trade deals done at EU level. However, the prospect of an additional 99,000t of beef coming into the EU market is alarming – if it were to happen overnight,” McGuinness said.
“The EU has completed a significant number of other trade agreements that are positive for agriculture – even the Mercosur deal gives opportunities for EU dairy and other sectors.”
McGuinness pointed to other looming threats for farmers and trade, including the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and possible tariffs from the US on European agricultural products.
She said the biggest impact of the Mercosur deal was the damage to confidence among beef farmers, already reeling from low prices and demanding climate and environmental challenges.
“But the deal is far from done and does require the Mercosur block to stick with the Paris Climate Agreement.”
Independent MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan branded the deal as the ultimate hypocrisy and betrayal of farmers and wider rural economy. He said they had been traded off to deliver benefits for the car industry and pharmaceuticals.
He said European farmers were expected to comply with the highest standards in animal welfare while being continually berated for not doing enough for the environment.
"After they have bent over backwards to satisfy our demands, producing food of the highest quality and caring for the landscape in which they work and we all enjoy, we sign off on a deal that will undermine their very livelihood by allowing into market substandard agricultural produce that does not have to comply with the same standards,” Flanagan said.
Flanagan said it was important to note that 19% of the text in the Canada trade agreement was changed from the initial draft to the final text.
“This deal has still to go through the European Parliament, the European Council and National Parliaments. We will see then – are those who are talking the talk now, about how unhappy they are with the deal willing to stand up and be counted?”
Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said the deal was not a surprise and that it would be hugely damaging to the rural economy and the agricultural sector. He said Sinn Féin had always been critical of the EU trade agenda with many deals raising risks for Ireland.
“There was no good time for this agreement but there certainly isn't a worse time when you consider the pressures on the beef sectors – the review of the CAP, questions over the budget and the implications of Brexit,” Carthy said.
“All political and legal avenues must be used to block this deal. Not only in recognition of the damage to agriculture but also because of the hypocrisy involved. From talking about protecting the climate to negotiating a deal which would see the importation of beef produced at the cost of deforestation.”
He said it seemed bizarre that the Government were going through such lengths to say they did not have a veto on the deal rather than sourcing ways to block it.