Brexit tariffs “a real threat” to jobs and incomes in Ireland

13 Mar 2019

Brexit

Responding to last night’s vote in the House of Commons and plans for temporary tariffs Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said we now know the true meaning of the British Government’s mantra of “Brexit means Brexit” and that the temporary tariff proposals pose a risk to tens of thousands of jobs in agri-food in particular”.

Patricia King is calling on the Government to adopt measures to protect workers and families from the impact of the temporary tariff system the UK has announced it will introduce on produce entering Britain, including from the Republic, if it leaves the EU on a ‘no-deal’ basis.

Ms King said that these tariffs would pose a particular threat to workers across a wide range of sectors but particularly to those working in the agri-food sector and to low-income families.

To combat the negative effects, the General Secretary urged the Government to:

  1. Implement measures to support companies to keep workers in employment, such as Short-Term Work Schemes
  2. Introduce a Brexit adjustment Assistance Fund to re-train and upskill workers
  3. Seek to revise the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to support workers made redundant because of Brexit

Patricia King said: ‘The Government also needs to adopt specific measures to minimise the impact of tariffs on low-paid workers and low-income households. The Low Pay Commission warns that the negative impacts of Brexit are likely to fall disproportionately on low-skilled workers and low-income households. Special provision needs to be made for these citizens.

Owen Reidy, Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU with responsibility for Northern Ireland, added that the UK Government’s documents released this morning are essentially a double blow for workers in Northern Ireland’s agri-food and manufacturing sectors. Domestic and external sales to Britain from Northern Ireland (manufactured goods) will now face increased competition from non-EU manufacturers who have essentially been given a unilateral cut in their tariffs. For example, beef coming into the UK will see its effective tariff almost halved.  Also, those that export to the EU will, in a no-deal scenario, now be faced with the application of the full EU CET (common external tariff).

Patricia King concluded that all the House of Commons’ talk of ‘meaningful votes’ will be absolutely meaningless if it does not actively decide not to leave the EU without a deal - the current default outcome - possibly in little over two weeks. Such an outcome would be catastrophic for working people and their families across the island of Ireland’ Ms King said.