Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

Britain wants exemptions for farmers to avoid Brexit border posts

UK calls for ‘unprecedented agri-food agreements to keep border open’

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Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The UK is calling for unprecedented agri-food agreements and recognition of current regulations, which would allow trade continue as is post Brexit between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

In its position paper on Northern Ireland, which it released today as part of its proposals to handle Brexit, it says that dialogue between it and the EU should focus, at the earliest opportunity, on the issues most critical to delivering as frictionless and seamless a border as possible.

It outlines nine principles and criteria which, it says, aim to avoid a return to a hard border, including measures to avoid physical, documentary and identification border controls and checks on live animals, which are currently required for EU trade with third countries.

It is also looking to avoid veterinary checks on products of animal origin and animal by-products not for human consumption.

It says that there must be recognition of the unique nature of the land border, including cross-border movements of smaller traders, farmers and individuals and the need to protect everyday movement of goods; and the integrated nature of the agri-food industry.

The paper states that, while the UK agrees that the solution here cannot, as Michel Barnier has said, be “based on a precedent”, it is important to note that the EU has reached deep agreements with near neighbours allowing for the free flow of agri-food products across borders.

It proposes that as the Irish side of the land border would continue to be subject to relevant EU regulations, an agreed, reciprocal solution is therefore required. It also says that the UK is starting from a point of full regulatory alignment.

It proposes regulatory equivalence on agri-food measures, where the UK and the EU agree to achieve the same outcome and high standards, with scope for flexibility in relation to the method for achieving this.

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This, it says, would allow the UK and the EU to manage the process of ensuring ongoing equivalence in regulatory outcomes following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

And, it would also ensure that there would be no requirement for any SPS or related checks for agri-food products at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

It goes on to say that it is important that North-South cooperation on agriculture has enabled the island of Ireland to be treated in policy and operational terms as a single epidemiological unit for the purposes of animal health and welfare.

Trade between Northern Ireland Britain is worth £10.7 billion (22pc of all Northern Ireland’s sales in goods by value), while trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland over the same period, Ireland was Northern Ireland’s biggest external trading partner, exporting £2.7 billion of goods to Ireland (6pc of all Northern Ireland’s sales in goods by value and 36pc of Northern Ireland’s total goods exports).

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