Ulster farmers warn of 'disastrous' Brexit fallout north and south

Stock image / Getty Images
Stock image / Getty Images
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) has warned of "disastrous" consequences for farming in Northern Ireland should the UK crash out of the EU.

The UFU's comments follow publication of the latest technical papers from the British government on a 'no deal' exit.

Fears that an administrative trade embargo on food and drink between the EU and UK has also sparked massive concerns.

UFU president Ivor Ferguson described the 'no deal' papers as "completely unacceptable" to farmers in the North.

"The papers confirm what we already knew: a 'no deal' Brexit is bad for farming," he said.

"The latest notices include one which relates to the export of animals and animal products and suggests we would face a cliff-edge scenario if we leave the EU with no deal.

"This is completely unacceptable and would be disastrous for farming in Northern Ireland, particularly for our sheep industry, and for the economy."

Meanwhile, suggestions from EU officials that the UK faces a six-month wait to be certified as an approved third-country supplier of food and drink in a 'no deal' Brexit scenario has compounded farmers' fears across Britain and Northern Ireland.

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The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has estimated that meat processing plants in Britain and Northern Ireland that currently export to the EU will have to undergo individual audits by British and EU authorities in the event of a 'no deal' Brexit.

Such a process will take around six months, the NFU estimate, and will have to be replicated for all UK-based companies supplying food and drink to the EU.

Embargo

"What we are talking about in effect is a six-month trade embargo until such time as we can get the product in, from that point we will face the European's external tariff wall - meaning we will be priced out of the market," said the NFU's director general, Terry Jones.

It has been suggested that the British government has plans in place to allow goods enter the UK without checks and at reduced tariff rates.

The EU could introduce emergency legislation to keep food from Britain flowing, but such a decision is unlikely to be taken ahead of the UK's exit.

Any disruption in trade between the UK and EU has massive implications for both farmers and processors on both sides of the Irish border.

Meat factories in the south slaughter 370,000 sheep and lambs from the North each year, while dairies in the Republic process around 800m litres of milk produced in Northern Ireland.

Similarly, Northern slaughter plants process a significant proportion of pigs from the South.

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