Hard border a disaster for Northern Ireland farmers, says head of UFU
An increasingly likely hard Irish border for food and livestock will be "disastrous" for Northern Ireland's farmers, the head of the Ulster Farmers Union has said.
The British and Irish governments, businesses, agriculture and the EU27 are now firmly on a footing for a 'no-deal' scenario in just 99 days, with the Northern Ireland Civil Service preparing a 'Brexit bunker' of officials to help cope with anticipated disruption.
The European Commission has indicated there will have to be checks on foods such as meat and milk between the Republic and Northern Ireland from March 29. Such a move would be a devastating blow for farmers and the agri-food sector, which will have few immediate ways of offsetting the impact.
The Irish government has now released its own no-deal plan which Tanaiste Simon Coveney described as "stark" and "sobering". It warns of an "exceptional economic event which would be met with exceptional measures".
While a series of warnings are outlined, Dublin makes it clear that the agri-food sector is particularly at risk.
Hundreds of thousands of litres of milk from the Republic goes to Northern Ireland to be processed daily, before making its way back down again and onto supermarket shelves. And 500,000 southern pigs are sent to Northern Ireland every year for processing, while at least half of Northern Ireland's lamb heads south of the border.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson said agriculture was dangerously vulnerable to a no-deal Brexit.
"A 'no-deal' Brexit would put the UK over a cliff edge and would effectively mean the closure of export markets, which no one wants to see happen," he said.