Dairy farmers say no-deal Brexit preparations 'completely inadequate'

Photo: Liam Burke
Photo: Liam Burke
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Farmers are very alarmed and concerned they continue to be left completely exposed to Brexit and there is absolutely nothing in the Government's Contingency Plan that would ally these fears according to the President of Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack.

The Government and the EU, Mr McCormack said, have done absolutely nothing to protect the primary producer.

"We have been left hoping that the UK House of Commons will pass the deal to save us from the negative consequences and we are now down to days in terms of no deal crash out. 

"The hard facts of the situation are that the primary producer in the agriculture sector is the most exposed individual to the implications of Brexit given that the processors will simply pass on the negatives," he said.

Mr McCormack said such a scenario is entirely unacceptable and added: "it is about time that policymakers woke up to the fact that certain sectors are extremely exposed and opening markets while welcome will not solve this massive problem facing us".

He said the Government's Contingency Plan makes absolutely no reference to what plans the Government or the EU has to counteract the imposition of tariffs or the potential losses that will occur from Brexit.  

ICOS, the umbrella organisation for host of Irish dairy processors, recently highlighted that should the UK leave the EU single market and customs union without a trade deal in place, crippling WTO tariffs of up to 80pc could apply to agri-food products.

For example, 77,651t of Irish cheddar cheese was exported to the UK in 2016, (two-thirds of all the cheddar produced in Ireland). Tariffs under the EU’s schedule are €1,671/t of cheddar (approximately 16c/L). If the UK were to adopt the EU’s trade schedule following their exit (as they have indicated they will do), this would result in a tariff bill of approximately €150m a year on Irish cheddar.

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ICOS said this would destroy the competitiveness of Irish products- especially given that the UK’s intention to enter into free trade agreements with other agri-food exporting countries such as New Zealand and Australia.

ICOS also have said the creation of a new customs border between the EU and the UK will have major implications for agri-food importers and exporters.

It says a customs border and the associated administrative procedures would add a considerable amount of time to journeys between Ireland and UK.

"Within the agri-food sector, short journey times are critical for ensuring the quality of fresh and refrigerated products.

"Any delay would mean missed connections to further destinations, mandated rest times for drivers, and spoiled goods, which would prove to be massively disruptive and costly for agri-food businesses.

"While appearing short, estimates are that even a two-minute delay at the UK border in Dover, for example, would create a 27km long queue," it said.

ICOS has highlighted that further investment must be made in Ireland’s customs infrastructure and capacity to prepare for the UK leaving the EU, including the future recruitment and training of customs personnel.

"The physical infrastructure that would be needed to carry out customs checks needs to be built, and the technical capacity developed and fully functioning for when the UK leaves the EU.

"Technology-based solutions, such as number plate recognition, x-ray scanning to avoid physical checks and in particular electronic certificates (as agri-food certificate are currently still paper-based), must be adopted and utilised to enable the smooth flow of goods.

"Although not a solution on its own, this technology does have the potential to help overcome many customs barriers," it said.

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