UK Prime Minister Theresa May formally notified Article 50 on March 29th, officially triggering a two-year countdown for the country’s withdrawal from the EU
UK Prime Minister Theresa May formally notified Article 50 on March 29th, officially triggering a two-year countdown for the country’s withdrawal from the EU.
Shortly after lunchtime that Wednesday afternoon, Sir Tim Barrow, the UK’s Ambassador to the EU, handed the Premier’s ‘notification of withdrawal’ to European Council President Donald Tusk. ‘This is a historic moment from which there can be turning back,’ May stated, describing the end of the 44-year relationship with the EU as a ‘great turning point in our national history.’
On receiving the six-page correspondence, Tusk said ‘as for now, nothing has changed … EU law will continue to apply to and within the EU. We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye.’ Tusk has convened an extraordinary European Council on April 29th, where leaders from the EU-27 look set to endorse guidelines setting out the framework and principles for the negotiations.
In view of the Brexit wheels being set in motion, Irish Agriculture Minister Michael Creed held a number of bilaterals in the margins of the Luxembourg Council ‘to build awareness of Ireland’s potential exposure from an agri-food and fisheries perspective,’ sources say. The Macroom man met with the UK’s Junior Minister George Eustice and his Austrian and Luxembourg counterparts in a bid to ‘establish common ground with Member States who share similar exposure to Brexit … in order to help shape future negotiations on such matters.’
Speaking to reporters, the Fine Gael politician said ‘the main thrust of these discussions has been to impress upon ministers across the EU how important it is for Ireland to maintain its trading relationship with the UK and to outline the integrated nature of the North-South food economy.’
Michael Creed travelled to Paris on April 5th for a meeting with outgoing French Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll, who is expected to contest the forthcoming legislative election in France on June 11th.
Ministers discuss Brazilian beef
EU agriculture ministers travelled to Luxembourg for the monthly Council meeting on April 3rd, where simplifying farm policy rules and the recent Brazilian fraud scandal in the country’s meat sector were at the top of the agenda.
During the one-day meeting, EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis confirmed that his services would conduct audits in Brazil after Easter ‘by mid-May at the latest’ and does not rule ou t additional measures in light of the outcome of reinforced checks and the evolution of the situation. The ‘question is not closed on the need for further action,’ he stated.
The EU Health chief sought to allay fears among the public that ‘all consignments from the establishments implicated in the fraud currently on the way to the EU will be rejected and returned to Brazil.’ The Lithuanian Commissioner confirmed there would be 100% physical checks on all consignments presented for import from Brazil and 20% ‘microbiological’ checks (for Salmonella and E.Coli), with importers liable for the cost of these enhanced controls.
Only a handful of delegations intervened in the discussion, with the vast majority saying that it was up to the Latin American country to restore consumer confidence in its meat sector. Delegates from the Netherlands, France and the Czech Republic emerged the most vocal, calling on the Commission to introduce tougher sanctions, with the latter pushing for a ‘complete ban’ on Brazilian meat entering the EU as a result of the ‘serious systemic failure’ in its food production system.
EU Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan did not intervene during the formal discussion, but in response to a question at the post-Council press conference, he said the recent meat scandal in Brazil and bilateral negotiations were ‘two separate issues … and it was quite unfair to link them.’ The fraud investigation was ‘not a helpful development,’ he underlined, calling on the trade bloc to lower its level of ambition in any future accord.
• Rose O’Donovan is Editor of the Brussels-based agricultural publication AGRA FACTS.