Farm Ireland
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Monday 21 January 2019

Backstop is a huge protection for Irish farmers - Coveney

Tanaiste Simon Coveney addressing the IFA National Council in Dublin on the latest developments on Brexit.
Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Tanaiste Simon Coveney addressing the IFA National Council in Dublin on the latest developments on Brexit. Picture: Finbarr O'Rourke
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

The so-called Brexit 'backstop' is a huge protection for Irish farmers, according to the Tanaiste Simon Coveney.

Speaking to the IFA today, the Tanaiste said that it offers regulatory alignment north and south of the border if the UK decides at a future date to move away from currently aligned standards and regulations of the customs union and single market.

Last December, both sides in the Brexit negotiatons agreed to the so-called 'backstop' which would ensure that, regardless of whatever else happens, nothing will lead to the re-emergence of a hard border in Ireland.

Today, Simon Coveney told IFA national council that the backstop would provide a floor below which we cannot fall in terms of regulatory alignment north and south of the border.

"So British farming policy does not move in a direction that fundamentally undermines the level playing field we have north and south of the border today.

"If 40pc of milk produced on Northern farms continues to be processed south of the border and the UK does away with the Common Agricultural Policy, and no longer requires its dairy farmers to no longer carry through with cross compliance and does not have the same requirements for inspections or animal husbandry issues...if those requirements do not apply to farms north of the border then how can we have an all-island economy?"

If one jurisdiction is producing food to a totally different rule book to the other jurisdiction, we can't have that without the result being border infrastructure.

"The only way to level a playing field then is to put a border in place and charge a tariff to make up the difference and we can't have that either. Not just for trade reasons, but it fundamentally undermines relationships on the island of Ireland."

The problem he said is that there is a line across the island that would separate nationalists from the Republic and the Unionists, he said, see the backstop as creating barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.

"You can see how this has become a green versus orange issue in Northern Ireland."

This is why the last 10pc is difficult to get across the line, he said.

After March 29 next year we cannot have a situation where Britain leaves and everything changes. "That would be incredibly disruptive."

So there is a two-year transition period in place, to finalise political relations and businesses and sectors can put contingency plans in place.

But, he warned that two year period does not happen if there is not a withdrawal treaty.

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