'Waiting until 2019 to see what happens with Brexit isn’t acceptable' says Fianna Fail's Donnelly
The jobs and livelihoods of farmers, agri-food workers and rural communities could be badly hit, without a national response to Brexit, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly.
Speaking from the Ploughing Championships, Donnelly said, while food and farming is one of Ireland’s successes right now – exports are up, including impressive growth in the US market.
"Brand Ireland is strong. But Brexit could damage this badly. The UK Government insists it is leaving the Customs Union.
"This means there is a real possibility of border controls being introduced for Northern Ireland and Britain.
“They are talking about regulatory divergence, meaning different food and safety standards over time. They are discussing the possibility of pulling funding for CAP. This would mean reductions in payments to Irish farmers. And they are talking about ‘no deal’ with the EU on Brexit.
"In this world, the ESRI estimates a potential reduction in dairy trade with the UK of 60%, and a staggering 85% for beef – this would be catastrophic.
Donnelly hit out at the Government's performance saying it has given Bord Bia a paltry level of extra staff.
"It has allocated just €5m to Brexit this year. It promised to provide a detailed sectoral plan, but over a year after the Brexit vote, they can’t even give a timeline for when we might see it.
"Enterprise Ireland is working with some of the bigger companies, but farmers and many smaller companies are not being engaged with.
“We are all working hard to secure as soft a Brexit as possible, but we must put plans in place now for a worst case scenario. It takes years to break into new markets – waiting until 2019 to see what happens isn’t acceptable. Farmers and agri-food companies must get adequate supports now.
"That means adaptation funding and access to low-cost finance. It means providing support to find new markets and developing new relationships with purchasers across Europe and beyond, for Irish produce. It means better supports for Bord Bia, including marketing," he said.