A potential deal between Europe and the South American Mercosur bloc countries is facing increasing opposition in Europe.

It is understood that an increasing number of Member States are against a deal which could see European agriculture under threat with environmental and animal welfare measures the key stumbling blocks.

While a European impact assessment is not due until September, it is understood that around 19 Member States could be against the deal. A number of sources in Europe have said that the current drive to secure a Mercosur deal is motivated by trade and politically, but it is unlikely to be backed by a majority of Member States over concerns around the impact on agriculture, as well as environmental and animal welfare concerns.

Nine countries in Europe, including Ireland, have said they are concerned about agriculture, while around 10 others are believed to be supportive that a deal does not go ahead.

Meanwhile, on his first visit to Brussels following his election this week, IFA President Joe Healy strongly criticised the EU Commission’s approach to the Mercosur trade talks with South American countries and insisted that no offers are made on increased access to the European market for sensitive products, including beef.

Healy said Irish and European farmers were outraged at the draft offer put forward to Member States by Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström which would give Mercosur a new tariff rate quota providing additional access for 78,000t of beef, on top of the preferential access they already have, under which an estimated 180,000t of steak cuts were imported in 2015.

The IFA President pointed out that, with 39,000t of the EU draft offer in the form of high value cuts, this would mean giving the South American countries over one third of the 600,000t EU market for steak cuts.

“This would be a total sell out of Irish and European livestock farmers, with no gains for European agriculture. Farmers in sensitive sectors are being sacrificed for the benefit of European industry and services.”

Joe Healy stressed that previous analysis by the European Commission had shown that a Mercosur deal would inflict losses of €7.8 billion on the EU agriculture sector.