French farmers call for ‘hard’ border between Republic and Northern Ireland

Of national concern: A mock customs post at Ravensdale, Co Louth, set up to protest against a hard border Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Of national concern: A mock customs post at Ravensdale, Co Louth, set up to protest against a hard border Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The leader of a major French farmers union has called for a ‘hard’ border to be established between between Northern Ireland and the Republic, following the UK’s exit from the EU.

The comments were made by Christophe Hillairet, the leader of an influential regional French farmers association.

Hillairet said that he was afraid that the UK would sign agreements to import food from the Commonwealth and that he was particularly concerned by how these imports might find their way into the Republic and the wider EU.

Quoted in Agra Europe today, Monsieur Hillairet is said that “Ireland is a big problem but for the French farmer we will need to have a hard border between the north and the Republic as otherwise we will have a lot of products that will cross from north to south. That would be very dangerous for our producers.”

Here, the President of ICMSA John Comer said the comments were at best premature and could more frankly be described as self-centred. 

He said that Monsieur Hillairet must be aware of the very recent history of suffering and conflict in precisely that border region whose avoidance would continue to take clear precedence over the anxieties of French farm groups as far as both Ireland and the United Kingdom were concerned.

These were farming and rural communities, Mr Comer explained, who owned lands and collected and processed milk in plants on both sides of the border.

He said that the farming communities concerned had every right to expect that the EU and  the UK would continue – so far as was possible with goodwill and intelligence  - to facilitate that absolutely natural process. 

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As to Monsieur Hillairet’s express fear that lamb from New Zealand could arrive in Northern Ireland and cross a ‘soft’ border into the Republic before entering the mainland EU markets, Mr Comer said that there was already a whole ‘Third-Country-Of-Origin’ labelling procedure worked out and operated satisfactorily throughout the EU and the UK’s continued adherence to that procedure could be negotiated as part of the overall process.  

What was more important, said the ICMSA President, was that EU farm leaders showed some degree of solidarity and commitment to the Irish farming communities who were – by a considerable margin – the most affected sector within the EU both in economic and practical terms.

“The only people who would have enjoyed reading Monsieur Hillariet’s comments were the very anti-EU British Eurosceptics who want to play the different Member States off against each other and who want to form that feeling of tension between different sectors and nations. 

“That must not happen and with respect to our French friends we would prefer them to reflect on the common good and not just on their own particular sectoral anxieties”, said Mr Comer.

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