I propose to take Questions Nos. 173 and 174 together.
As the Deputy will be aware, commercial enterprises in Ireland have benefited greatly from the introduction of the Single European Market, giving them tariff free access to a European market of almost 500m consumers. The free movement of goods and services within the Single Market means that Irish enterprises now have access to export markets which previously were not an option because of the costs involved and additional cross-border bureaucracy.
All Irish beef producers have ready, unimpeded and equal access to all EU Member State markets without restriction. Articles 34 to 36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prohibit Member States from maintaining or imposing barriers on intra-EU trade in goods. These provisions give rise to the principle of mutual recognition whereby each Member State is obliged to accept onto its market products which are legally manufactured or marketed in another Member State. Member States can only refuse to apply this principle in cases where there is an overriding public interest (e.g. public safety, public or animal health or the protection of the environment). Even then, all trade restrictive measures taken must be necessary for, and proportionate to, the protection of the public interest concerned.
The Deputy will be aware there are no official controls in the European Union for beef prices. Cattle and beef prices are determined by the dynamics of supply and demand in the marketplace and neither I nor any agriculture Minister in the European Union have any function in that regard. That is a commercial matter between beef producers, beef processors and retailers. Furthermore, successive reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy have involved a shift to more market oriented policies that move away from price supports and towards direct payments to farmers.