'Too much focus on Border question and not enough on Ireland/UK trade in Brexit talks'
Farmers are concerned that the amount of attention being given to the Border question in Brexit negotiations is to the detriment of the Ireland-UK 'East-West' trading relationships, the ICMSA has said.
ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that it accepts the validity of the Government's decision to concentrate on the Border and prioritise the political over the economic, but everyone has to realise that our economic ties are much more 'East-West' than they are North-South.
Mr McCormack said that the Irish Government had clearly prioritised the preservation of the no-border arrangement with the North as our ‘Bottom Line’ and enjoyed the total solidarity of the Commission on that question.
However, he added that while it was incredibly important to acknowledge that this emphasis effectively prioritised the political over the economic the net effect was that the multi-billion trade between Irish food producers and their British customers was relegated and often seemed to be something of an afterthought to the ‘No Hard Border’ core policy.
"This is a balancing act - and a very difficult one at that," said Mr McCormack. "We have to stand our ground on our right not to have a hard border with the North with whom we do significant business and have everyday interaction.
"We equally have to weigh up the reality that it is our relationship with our British customers that drives our multi-billion euro beef, cheese and other agri-sectors, and I wonder whether we having been stressing the North-South political dimension at the expense, literally, of the East-West economic link."
Mr McCormack added that Northern Ireland has a stronger reliance on the South when it comes to trade.
"In 2016, 30pc of Northern Ireland's exports came South, whereas just one per cent of the Republic's exports went North," he said.