Farm Ireland

Friday 23 March 2018

Time to push for special status in North during Brexit talks, says MEP

MEP Matt Carthy
MEP Matt Carthy

Sarah Collins

The Irish Government should present the EU with proposals to ensure a "special status" for Northern Ireland post-Brexit, Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has said.

He said that while recent proposals from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on an EU-UK customs union and a transition period were "useful", the Government now needed to put forward a "very defined Irish position" on Northern Ireland's status.

"Call it what you want, but effectively, it's a special status, and that's effectively what Simon Coveney and Leo Varadkar have been hinting at," Mr Carthy said of the foreign minister and Taoiseach.

"What I would be hopeful of is that we'd be moving beyond the hints and the broad rhetoric to now actually coming forward, from an Irish Government position, with solid proposals in relation to how the interests of Ireland can be protected," he said.

EU officials are reluctant to talk about a special status for Northern Ireland, while the Irish Government has been cautious about raising it in talks in case it angers other EU countries. But Mr Carthy says the EU is open to the idea. "There is absolute good will and almost zero hostility at an EU level to that type of solution," Mr Carthy said.

"The difficulty is that it won't become an EU position unless the Irish Government ask for it, too."

Mr Carthy, one of three Irish members of the European Parliament's agriculture committee, said that Brexit and the budget for the Common Agricultural Policy are set to dominate MEPs' work this autumn. But agriculture MEPs will need to push for CAP reform before they can argue for a bigger budget, he said.

"It's very difficult to defend the CAP budget when you have a situation whereby, in effect, farm enterprises - the equivalent of multinational corporations - are drawing down hundreds of thousands of euro in direct payments, when you have farmers in the west of Ireland who are struggling to make ends meet," Mr Carthy said.

Also Read

He said farmers in Northern Ireland were set to lose the most from Brexit, with the loss of CAP funding and the prospect of the UK market being flooded with cheaper imports from South America, New Zealand and Australia. He also expressed scepticism that EU agriculture chief Phil Hogan would protect European or Irish farmers in future EU trade deals with similar countries.

"This time last year we were receiving assurances, and we read the front page stories, that basically said that beef was off the table in relation to Mercosur," he said of the EU's ongoing talks with the South American bloc. "Now, here we are again, seeing that actually, in fact, the EU is making further proposals in relation to beef, so if that doesn't send out very alarming bells to farmers that their interests aren't being protected at an EU level, then I don't know what will."

Indo Farming

More in EU