EU and UK braced for Brexit agri-quo­tas row with WTO part­ners

Irish Independent - Farming - - FINANCE -

THE Euro­pean Par­lia­ment is set to strike down pro­posed cuts to the EU’s farm­ing bud­get.

In a re­port to be voted on next week — which is not bind­ing — MEPs will set out their “op­po­si­tion to any re­duc­tion in the level of key EU poli­cies, such as the EU co­he­sion pol­icy and the com­mon agri­cul­tural pol­icy (CAP)”.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has pro­posed a 5pc cut in the CAP post2020, but MEPs and at least 20 EU gov­ern­ments have hit out at the move.

Per­for­mance

Sep­a­rately, the Com­mis­sion has pro­posed changes to how CAP money is handed out, bas­ing fu­ture pay­ments on new cli­mate ob­jec­tives and per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors.

Un­der the new rules, ev­ery EU coun­try would have to sub­mit a “strate­gic plan” to the Com­mis­sion, and gov­ern­ments would be re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing it is fol­lowed.

EU au­di­tors have pre­vi­ously cast doubt on the CAP’s con­tri­bu­tion to EU cli­mate tar­gets and are set to pub­lish a re­port on Wed­nes­day crit­i­cis­ing the post-2020 changes. THE EU and UK are head­ing for a Brexit show­down with their main agri­cul­tural trad­ing part­ners.

A group of coun­tries at the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO), in­clud­ing the US, Aus­tralia, Ar­gentina and Canada, have come out against the EU’s pro­posed carve-up of agri­cul­tural quo­tas post-Brexit.

The row is brew­ing as a Brexit deal inches closer, with ne­go­tia­tors weigh­ing a ‘back­stop’ plan for the Ir­ish bor­der that would bind the UK to EU cus­toms rules un­til a new trade deal is in place.

The UK would be granted some scope to set its own rules on tar­iffs and trade, which it would not en­joy in a fully fledged cus­toms union with the EU.

But North­ern Ire­land would have to re­main bound to some EU stan­dards (on food and goods) in or­der to avoid cre­at­ing a bor­der with Ire­land.

Prod­uct in­spec­tions would be car­ried out in ports, at sea or in fac­to­ries to avoid the need for bor­der check­points.

EU of­fi­cials and di­plo­mats are more pos­i­tive about a deal, though they were quick to dis­miss spec­u­la­tion by Brexit sec­re­tary Do­minic Raab that a deal can be done by Novem­ber 21.

“We’re wor­ried the con­di­tions are not there in the UK for them to han­dle their process,” one EU diplo­mat said.

“The pol­i­tics are so com­pli­cated, we may end up hav­ing too lit­tle time.”

A com­pro­mise hinges on lan­guage in the fi­nal EU-UK exit treaty that gives the UK a get-out clause from the back­stop, and re­as­sures Brex­i­teers — es­pe­cially the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party — that it will not split North­ern Ire­land from the rest of the UK.

It also needs to pass muster with both sides’ obli­ga­tions at the WTO.

A vari­ant of the back­stop plan has been on the ta­ble for a num­ber of weeks, but was re­jected by UK ne­go­tia­tors.

De­tails on the EU-UK part of the back­stop will be worked out dur­ing a 21-month tran­si­tion pe­riod (to the end of 2020), which UK prime min­is­ter Theresa May (pic­tured) has agreed could be ex­tended.

Those talks would take place along­side ne­go­ti­a­tions on a wider EU-UK trade agree­ment, an out­line of which is be­ing drawn up, to be pub­lished along­side the exit treaty.

That doc­u­ment will be key to sell­ing the back­stop, which both sides still hope will never need to be used.

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