Gerry McCormack said: “Our members are deeply concerned that the UK has today announced its intention to introduce tariffs on imports from the EU, including from the Republic of Ireland, in a “no-deal” Brexit scenario. SIPTU represents tens of thousands of workers in the agri-food sector – across meat, dairy and cereal production and processing – whose jobs would be immediately at risk. SIPTU supports the call by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for urgent action by the Government, in conjunction with the EU institutions, to protect vulnerable workers from job losses.
“The calamity of a “no-deal” Brexit is now coming into clear view. The proposed tariffs are unacceptable and have the capacity to inflict enormous damage within the suggested 12-month timeframe and beyond. For instance, there is the prospect of hefty tariffs on Irish meat while the UK market becomes more open to low-cost beef from outside Europe. Irish cheese exports also stand to become uncompetitive. It is vital for the Irish Government to secure the maximum relaxation of EU state aid rules in order to support affected businesses and maintain jobs.”
According to the latest proposals from London goods entering Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic will be exempt from tariffs. This appears to indicate that the NI economy will be treated differently to the rest of the UK.
However, according to Teresa Hannick, Head of SIPTU’s Manufacturing Division, this arrangement will be of little comfort to workers in border counties: “We represent members in companies trading and moving supplies North and South of the border on a daily basis. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be a knock-on impact on business confidence and on the viability of trade and the movement of goods on the island of Ireland and with the UK.
“Delays and interruptions in processing activity will cost jobs. Many of the jobs at risk are low to moderately paid. In the first instance, the Government must find ways to maintain working capital in the short-term for businesses. It must also stand ready to provide immediate social welfare and re-skilling supports to workers who find themselves laid-off or made redundant”.
It appears that the British government is intent on punishing Irish producers and workers, as well as the Irish government, for insisting on a backstop to protect trade and the Good Friday Agreement, she said.