Monday 18 February 2019

'We have to hold our nerve,' Taoiseach tells farmers as they reveal fears over 'no deal'

Fighting talk: IFA President Joe Healy (left) greets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the association’s AGM in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Fighting talk: IFA President Joe Healy (left) greets Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the association’s AGM in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Margaret Donnelly and Louise Hogan

Irish beef farmers are facing a cliff edge as a no-deal Brexit looms, they told both the Minister for Agriculture and the Taoiseach at the Irish Farmers' Association AGM.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the AGM that Brexit was the greatest political challenge of our time, and "we have to hold our nerve".

"I cannot offer you the reassurance provided by certainty, but I can reassure you that until things are certain we will keep fighting your corner," he told the AGM at Farm Centre in Dublin last night.

However, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed told the farmers there was no hope of any more direct financial supports between now and the end of March, when the United Kingdom is expected to leave the European Union.

He said a payment of €200 per cow, which the IFA had sought, would only increase the number of cattle in the country, which is part of the problem.

IFA president Joe Healy asked the minister to reconsider, especially when millions could be found for dairy farmers in recent years.

The minister also warned the farmers the challenge they face with a no-deal Brexit is much more significant than the one beef farmers are currently going through.

He said the absence of the UK's €12bn annual net contribution to the EU budget would also create a significant shortfall.

Coupled with that, Mr Creed said, the cost of tariffs facing Irish exporters to the UK was €1.7bn. All we knew for certain, he added, was that the UK had notified the World Trade Organisation that it intended to apply tariffs.

Earlier in the day, Mr Healy had said the Taoiseach could have anything he wanted on his dinner menu but he must be a leader for the whole country, not just Dublin.

"It is important the Taoiseach remembers he is the Taoiseach for the whole country, not just Dublin," said Mr Healy, referring to Mr Varadkar's recent comments about his decision to limit the amount of red meat in his diet.

"Of course, the Taoiseach can eat what he likes, but as the leader of a country which relies heavily on our agri sector, we expect him to be more supportive of our top-quality products. We won't be driven off the land by keyboard warriors, quacks or lifestyle gurus," Mr Healy added.

With direct payments to farmers from Brussels facing a cut, Mr Healy called on the Taoiseach and Government to ensure supports to farmers were maintained.

Sheikh Mohammed (Godolphin Stud owner), Coolmore Stud, Larry Goodman and their likes are not "genuine farmers", said Mr Healy, as he pointed out new CAP proposals for funding will be earmarked for genuine farmers. "They should be used for farmers up in the middle of the night to calve cows, lamb ewes and work around the clock to harvest crops.

"I doubt very much the Sheikh has much experience on the combine or with the calving jack."

Irish Independent

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