Cyprus-model could save Derry and Donegal sheep and beef producers from devastating WTO trade tariffs

The head of the Livestock and Meat Commission has suggested a '˜Cyprus-type model' of cross-border trade could mitigate against the 'devastating impact' of a hard Brexit in March 2019.

LMC Chief Executive Ian Stevenson said following the partitioned Mediterranean island’s example would allow Derry’s and Donegal’s beef and sheep producers to continue to trade tariff-free if the European Commission and British Government fail to come to an agreement over the next 13 months.

The LMC was one of the only bodies from the North to provide written evidence to the Westminster Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which has just reported on its inquiry into the impact of Brexit on food trade.

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Mr. Stevenson warned that in the event of no Brexit deal and the adoption of World Trade Organisation (WTO) trading conditions the North’s beef and sheep meat output could decline by 21 per cent and exports to the EU could collapse by over 90 per cent.

He said WTO tariffs, which are particularly high for agricultural products, would have “a devastating impact on Northern Irish trade with the EU for beef and sheep meat”.

He said the government should consider a “Cyprus-type model for cross-border trade if no other agreement is possible”.

“Whilst not ideal, this would at least permit some semblance of frictionless trade across the island of Ireland. Under such a model, Northern Irish/UK beef and sheep meat could only be sold in the Irish Republic and not elsewhere in the EU. A reciprocal arrangement would work in the opposite direction, meaning that only beef and sheep meat originating in the Irish Republic could be sold in the UK.”