Intensive talks underway to secure EU funds for Irish agriculture if no-deal Brexit happens - Coveney
TÁNAISTE Simon Coveney said the EU will provide funds to help Ireland protect the multi-billion Euro agri-food sector, which is uniquely vulnerable to the potential fall-out from a no-deal Brexit.
Mr Coveney, speaking in west Cork, said intensive talks are underway between Dublin and Brussels over how to best implement a package of supports to protect Ireland's dairy, beef, poultry, pigmeat and horticulture sectors if the UK does, as feared, crash out of the EU without a withdrawal deal.
"It is difficult to determine what funds will be needed until we get a clearer picture of what a no-deal Brexit could look like," he said.
"What I mean by that is it is very hard to know at the moment whether there will be tariffs or no tariffs or (other) barriers to trade.
"The British Government has not made up their minds on their approach to tariffs in terms of a no deal.
"We all need to work to avoid that kind of dramatic situation where Britain would crash out without a deal.
"I don't think that will happen. But we have to prepare for it just in case. I have been having very intensive discussions with the European Commission in terms of how Ireland could be supported in that kind of scenario given the reliance that we have on the British market.
"Particularly for beef and dairy products but also for pigmeat and poultry as well."
Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said that, with EU support, Ireland will cope with whatever happens in the UK. He vowed Ireland's multi-billion Euro agriculture and fisheries will be protected at all costs from "the madness of a UK crash out" from
Mr Creed acknowledged that some people have interpreted a potential UK move on cheap Brazilian beef imports as an attempt to increase pressure on Ireland via its critical agri-food sector.
However, he warned that while such issues as tariffs were entirely a matter for the UK authorities, the Government would ensure Ireland's domestic agricultural and fisheries sectors were protected.
"I am probably more worried now than I was. Because the (Brexit) clock is ticking," he said.
"So I am more worried than I was. But I still remain hopeful because logic would dictate that the UK should not leave without a deal. But we are prepared for all eventualities."
The Cork TD was the first Government minister to warn in 2016 that there was absolutely no upside to Brexit for Ireland.
"Look, agriculture and fisheries are our biggest indigenous industries," he said. "We are not going to allow the Brexit madness to derail that engine of economic development in rural Ireland."
"That is not going to happen under this Government's watch. So whatever the resources are necessary either at EU level or from an Exchequer level, they will be provided to get us through this.
"What the critical issue is in the context of Brexit is to keep our product on the supermarket shelves while we get to a situation where we negotiate a future trading relationship. Now that future trading relationship may not be as good as what we
"But the critical thing in the madness of a (UK) crash out that we keep our product on their shelves and support our primary producers through that period by direct supports to those people."
He said Ireland would not face Brexit standing alone as was clear from measures already unveiled in Brussels by the European Commission. "If you even look at Commission announcements on State aid rules - there has been a significant easing of regulations on State aid," he said.
"We have had two very significant indications of the Commissioner's willingness (to help Ireland),
"Obviously, it will be a partnership between the EU and State aid contributions that will deal with whatever the fall out will be."
Mr Creed acknowledged that some have viewed the UK's hints at a Brazilian beef trade deal as an attempt to increase pressure on Ireland to soften its stance on the so-called 'back stop' guarantee over the Northern Ireland border.
"The application of tariffs is a domestic competence for the UK Government. I am aware of that (Brazilian beef) interpretation of what is happening in the UK. The critical thing for us is to hold our nerve now. Whatever the UK does, we can deal with it."