Monday 18 June 2018

There is absolutely 'no upside to Brexit' for Ireland, warns agriculture minister

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed: concerns on labelling. Photo: Tom Burke
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed: concerns on labelling. Photo: Tom Burke

Ralph Riegel and Claire McCormack

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has warned that there is "no upside to Brexit" for Ireland and said authorities must work to minimise the fallout for farmers and food exporters on both sides of the border.

Mr Creed stressed that the multi-billion-euro agri-food sector was a particular cause for concern; this is recognised both in Dublin and Belfast.

"The border is a particular difficulty for us; there is so much (agricultural) traffic over and across it," he said.

"(There are) 350,000 sheep that come south for slaughtering every year, there are about 10,000 pigs a week that go north for slaughter.

"In 2015 alone, 50,000-plus cattle went over the border. But probably the most complex (thing) of all is that we process milk from Northern Ireland in Leckpatrick and Lakeland Dairies in Co Monaghan."

Mr Creed said that such a large movement of milk raised major issues in the light of Brexit and EU labelling.

"When you mix milk from the queen's cows with Paddy's cows, what do get? Irish butter, sour cream or Irish milk? That is an issue because labelling is part of what we do."

The minister has already met with his northern counterpart, given the importance of the matters involved and the implications for farmers and food producers.

"We had done a lot of work in the department prior to the (Brexit) vote. I think the realisation is dawning, significantly in Northern Ireland now, about the challenges that they face."

Mr Creed added: "As I have said in the department and in the Government, there really is no upside to Brexit for Ireland."

Meanwhile, the IFA has argued that a three-year tax-deferral system would ease Brexit's impact on volatile farm incomes.

This is one of a raft of short -term measures the IFA is calling for in its pre-Budget submission.

Its president Joe Healy highlighted the "huge pressure" that farming families face as cash flow tightens and the viability of their farms is put at risk.

"Brexit has created major uncertainty and immediate price challenges," he said.

The IFA proposes that in a year when farm incomes fall significantly, tax should be paid based on the actual income earned, rather than the average tax due arising from five years' income.

The deferral would be carried forward and paid over a three-year period.

Irish Independent

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