Beware of Gifts from Jacob Rees-Moggs

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At first glance, it is possible to welcome the potential abandonment of the introduction of post-Brexit routine border inspections on food entering Britain from the EU.

But when dealing with the current administration, we must always keep in mind an expression that has existed since the time of Virgil: “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes”, fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts.

Whatever the real reasons for Britain’s change of position on ports, having already invested millions in setting up the physical infrastructure for import controls of animals, meat and other agricultural products from July, it is unlikely to be simply a celebration of the merits of free trade. But Ireland should be happy about that, unless a darker objective becomes apparent.

Despite all the anxiety, figures released by Bord Bia earlier this year showed Irish food, drink and horticulture exports to Britain in 2021 remained relatively constant at £4.4 billion. euros compared to 2020. This despite the impact of Covid and the fact that Britain is now outside the EU customs union.

It remains a main export market for the Republic of Ireland. Last year it absorbed 33% of our total international production, the same percentage as the rest of the EU combined.

When measured in consumer prepared foods (confectionery, bakery and snacks, cold meats and frozen foods), Britain absorbs two-thirds of our exports, a market worth €1.7 billion. Apparently, our neighbors say they don’t want to add to supply chain issues and potentially raise the price of food at a time when the cost of living is a hot topic everywhere.

Rather than once again extending the deadline for testing, they are accelerating plans to roll out a new digital frontier where goods crossing their borders will only be subject to physical checks based on risk. This is now to be implemented in 2023 rather than 2025. As a trusted provider, Ireland stands to benefit from this policy move.

The change comes after a new report from the London School of Economics says Brexit has weighed more on European companies exporting to Britain than on UK companies trading with Europe, although smaller British businesses have been disproportionately affected by the higher cost levels. , administration and bureaucracy that are now involved in trade with the mainland.

Inside that is a more subtle reason for Jacob Rees-Mogg, Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Effectiveness, to change course. Brits will now argue that if the UK does not impose food checks on goods entering from the EU, there is little or no justification for a hardline approach to the border in the Irish Sea.

This goes right back to Northern Ireland protocol and its future, which we will hear a lot more about during next week’s election in the North.

Ireland have serious skin in this game. It is worth asking the same question about Rees-Mogg’s actions that the Austro-Hungarian statesman Metternich asked when told that his French rival Talleyrand was dead: “What does he mean by the ?

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