Irish farmers can't rely on a 'rabbit out of a hat' solution to Brexit - ICMSA President

Photo: Liam Burke
Photo: Liam Burke
Claire Fox

Claire Fox

The Irish government can’t wait for "a rabbit out of a hat solution to Brexit" and must make plans on the basis that the UK will leave the European Union, ICMSA President Patrick McCormack said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to put a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to the House of Commons today, which is widely expected to be defeated.

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) President Patrick McCormack said that the Irish government must proceed and “plan on the basis that the UK will exit the EU on March 29 without any deal and with all the consequences for trade and free movement that this ‘crash out’ entails”.   

“Ireland seems to be operating on the basis that some last minute “rabbit out of a hat” deal would avert a no deal disaster but the Government’s duty-of-care now dictates that the Irish Government begin to accept the reality that in circumstances where no other option is being considered or supported that a No Deal Brexit will apply by default,” said Mr McCormack.

He said that once that is accepted – “and unfortunately that must be immediately” – then the question becomes how the Irish Government and the EU intends to support those sectors that will be most impacted upon by the chaos that will apply on March 30.

“Ireland is the Member State most affected by Brexit and Irish farmers are the sector most affected within Ireland”, said Mr McCormack.

“We will therefore expect the Government and EU to announce their plans and funding arrangements aimed at attempting to offset the worst damage that this situation will inflict on the people most affected in the state by the No Deal Brexit that the clock is now ticking down towards.

“Detailed sector-specific plans must be published, the time for generalisations is over. We need to see the detail and the funding to back it up.”

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Meanwhile, IFA President Joe Healy will address a meeting of UK farmers in London today where he will outline how a no deal Brexit will cause major disruptions to trade flow between the two countries.

“I know our colleagues are bringing the maximum pressure to bear on the political system to work for a solution that maintains frictionless trade but we have grave concerns regarding the dangers of a ‘no deal’ outcome that would cause massive disruption to the normal trade flows between the two countries, on which farmers greatly depend for their livelihoods,” said Mr Healy.

He said that Irish farmers have as much to lose as UK farmers from a no deal Brexit and that it’s important that polices aren’t put in place that will drive down food prices.

“Irish farming has just as much to lose as farmers in the UK if we find ourselves in a ‘no-deal’ scenario. Given the scale of what we export to the UK market – 37pc of our food products – it would be a seismic shock to our system if we don’t have full access between EU and the UK, while maintaining the value of the UK food market.  It’s often overlooked that we import €4bn of agri-food products from the UK,” he said.

“I believe EU and UK farm leaders have a shared interest in ensuring that the UK, which is an important market for all European farmers, does not pursue policies which will further drive down food prices.

 Importing food and food ingredients from countries with lower production costs and lower standards will undermine the value of the UK food market for EU and UK farmers,” he said.

“We must send a strong message that a cheap food policy is a race to the bottom which will ultimately lead to the destruction of EU and UK farming and lower quality food for the consumer.”

Online Editors

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