Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

Opinion: How will Irish food exports survive in a post-Brexit world?

Published 20/10/2016 | 16:00

Brexit changed everything for us and there are no upsides to it - but we have to find ways of coping with it. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Brexit changed everything for us and there are no upsides to it - but we have to find ways of coping with it. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Few of us need any reminders of the problems on the road ahead for Irish agribusiness. Brexit changed everything for us and there are no upsides to it - but we have to find ways of coping with it.

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In recent days, Alan Dukes had interesting ideas which are worth looking at. His links with Irish agribusiness go back to the late 1960s and he knows his way around the Brussels maze, once being rated as the only Irish person who understood how the CAP worked.

He couched his thoughts in the form of an open letter to British Prime Minister Theresa May. At the heart of Dukes' post-Brexit survival kit is this: "The UK should offer completely free, duty-free and quota-free access to its markets to the EU on condition of reciprocity. I believe this is an offer the EU could not logically refuse."

Now, that would be music to Irish farmers' ears - if it worked out - as it would banish our worst nightmare of tariffs on the largest chunk of trade of Irish agribusiness.

Dukes notes that May's decision to incorporate all existing EU laws into British law was "a master stroke" and would boost prospects for future tariff-free trade between the UK and the EU.

It would mean that pretty well all the EU norms and standards for UK products would stand, making the avoidance of trade barriers easier. Essentially, he writes, the EU is all about the promotion of global free trade. Why turn down free trade with the sixth largest global economy?

Interesting ideas: Alan Dukes
Interesting ideas: Alan Dukes

Dukes then proposes what journalists would call 'a word-for' solution for Britain in dealing with the generality of world trade agreements. The EU has a plethora of such agreements, so just substitute the term 'UK' for 'EU' in all such documentation and get on with the business.

On the common travel area, he argues Britain would have no problem continuing the practice. Ireland are the ones needing some kind of EU clearance here.

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But Dukes dismisses the suggestion Ireland could operate the British 'hard border' by beefing up identity controls at Rosslare, Dublin Airport and other key points.

That was posited as obviating the need for a restored border with the North and appeared attractive at first reading. The problem with it is English voters opted for 'Leave' largely due to demands for London to take back immigration controls. It appears unlikely that ceding them to Ireland would be a runner politically in Britain.

There are other snags in Dukes' proposals. The EU insistence on free movement for its citizens would be seen as essential for maintaining continued free trade.

Another snag is that tariff-free trade requires mutual recognition of the various standard-accrediting bodies in Britain and the EU. This is the hardest part of international trade negotiations.

Yet there will be snags with any proposals to deal with Brexit. We need solutions, not moaning.

Indo Farming