Farm Ireland

Wednesday 24 January 2018

'All-island' agri-sector needs a post-Brexit free-trade agreement

Director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce John McGrane Photo: Steve Humphreys
Director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce John McGrane Photo: Steve Humphreys
Claire Mc Cormack

Claire Mc Cormack

A free-trade agreement between the EU and the UK that includes agriculture has to be the goal for Ireland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

This is the primary finding of a report on the impact of Brexit which was ­commissioned by the Agriculture and Food Committee of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.

The report noted the integrated and all-island nature of both the beef, butter and cheddar cheese sectors, in ­particular, and warned that the imposition of tariffs would have "detrimental consequences".

Maree Gallagher, chair of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce Agriculture and Food Committee, pointed out that the agri-food sector was particularly exposed to Brexit. And she said Britain's decision to leave the EU required an all-island response.

"This is an integrated all-island sector that operates efficiently and seamlessly through the invisible border. Therefore, an all-island sector requires an all-island response, that is why we are specifically calling for an all-island strategy for the agri-food sector to address the ­consequences of Brexit," Ms Gallagher said.

"It is of mutual benefit to the UK and the EU, and of upmost importance to the Irish agri-food sector that the EU and the UK agree an all-encompassing free-trade agreement that includes agriculture," said John McGrane, director general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.

"The Irish Government and Minister (Michael) Creed must continue to press the Irish case in Brussels that a bad deal for the UK could have detrimental consequences for Ireland," he insisted.

The report, which is entitled 'The Impact of the UK Referendum on Membership of the European Union on the Irish Agriculture, Food and Fisheries Sectors', highlights the significant level of integration within agriculture between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

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It finds that many sub-sectors operate on a de facto all-island market, with multiple aspects of production spread between the two jurisdictions.

The paper specifies that any restriction on current trade practices between Republic of Ireland and the UK will be particularly negative for the Irish beef sector as well as for cheddar cheese and butter exports.

The paper's recommendations ­include:

• To introduce a specific strategy to address the fallout from Brexit for integrated all-island agri-food businesses;

• Reduce employer PRSI to reduce costs for agri-food employers;

• Expand Bord Bia's Marketing Intensification Programme designed to support Irish agri-food exports to the UK;

• The Irish Government, on behalf of the agri-food sector, should seek direct EU support as a consequence of the impact of the referendum result on the sector.

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