Farm Ireland

Friday 23 February 2018

'Brexit would damage centuries-old agri-food relationship'

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Ireland cannot allow a post-Brexit deal that damages “centuries-old relationship between Irish food producers and their British customers” ICMSA President told a House of Commons meeting yesterday.

ICMSA and other farming bodies met with Andrea Leadsom, the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where John Comer said that trade between the two countries is vital.

The President of ICMSA said the meeting represented a real opportunity to “get across” to UK parliamentarians the full extent and value of the food trade in both directions and the overwhelming need to safeguard that as the Brexit process begins with the widely expected ‘Triggering’ of Article 50 next month.

Over 41pc of Ireland's total food and drink exports going to the UK -  a figure that he estimated at around €4.4 billion, he said, while Ireland imports around €3bn worth of food and drink from the UK.

Ireland exports 52pc of its total beef production to the UK, while it also exported some 65,000 head of cattle to Northern Ireland and Britain in 2015, while some 10,000 pigs are  exported from the Republic to Northern Ireland each week.

"The UK and that British exporters would also struggle to find as dependable and steady a market as we had proved to be."

Comer said the number and complexity of the issues involved were ‘dizzying’ and he identified transit across the UK to mainland Europe,  all Ireland animal health, cross- border farm holdings, cross-border Co-op processing, currency fluctuation and – most important of all – the possibility of tariffs or quotas as just some of the more prominent challenges that we’ll face.

ICSA, which also met with Leadsom, said that the agri-food links need to be recognised as vital and protected as such.

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ICSA President Patrick Kent said this was acknowledged by Secretary Leadsom.

"Therefore, there needs to be trade talks running parallel with the Brexit negotiations. It is simply too late to start negotiating a trade deal between the UK and Europe only after Brexit negotiations have concluded.”

“Irish farmers have already taken a hit as a result of Brexit that cannot be sustained and needs to be reversed. Farmers are at a crossroads regarding farm decisions. At current levels it is just not sustainable at farm gate level. We have to cut production until we have a clearer view of what trade deal will be done between the UK and EU."

Kent said he also raised concerns with Secretary Leadsom about the risk of the UK market being flooded with New Zealand lamb or South American and Canadian beef and sought assurances that this would be limited.

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