Tuesday 23 July 2019

Farmers heap pressure on Hogan for 'no deal' support

Phil Hogan
Phil Hogan
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Following the defeat of the Brexit motion in the House of Commons this evening, IFA President Joe Healy traveled to Brussels for a meeting with EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan.

At the meeting Mr Healy demanded firm commitments of the Commission on support for Irish farmers, who would feel the full force of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

He said the reality of the situation is that Irish farmers are already bearing the brunt of Brexit through disastrous beef prices. Prices are down 25c/kg or almost €100 per head below this time last year.

Joe Healy said, “It’s time for EU solidarity to be converted into tangible support. Some of our sectors – beef, dairy, mushrooms – will be very badly exposed and will require significant financial assistance”.

“The prospect of a crash out Brexit is a serious threat, which would be catastrophic for farmers on the two islands and hugely damaging to the interests of consumers. Dicing with a cliff-edge Brexit is madness for everybody,” he warned.

At a meeting with UK farm leaders earlier today, Joe Healy said it was the clear view of farm leaders was that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be a disaster for farmers in Ireland and the UK and must be avoided.

Joe Healy said the Irish & UK food supply chains are deeply integrated.  “We have grave concerns regarding the dangers of a ‘no deal’ outcome that would cause massive disruption to the normal trade flows between the two countries, on which farmers greatly depend for their livelihoods.”

Teagasc has said that a worst case scenario Brexit could see a reduction in total Irish agri-food exports of 8pc or €800 m.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed told the Irish Independent earlier this month that if, and when, a hard Brexit becomes a reality, Ireland will be making a case for major grant aid.

“You’re looking at hundreds of millions here. Between the beef industry and the fishing industry we’re talking mega-money,” he said.

The move for special aid would reverse a trend in which Ireland was a net contributor to EU coffers after decades of lavish farm, regional and social fund grants worth tens of billions.

The Agriculture Minister said he would make Irish aid a key agenda item when EU agriculture ministers meet in Luxembourg in early April, just after the Brexit deadline of March 29 next.

"There is a high level of awareness of Ireland's unique exposure to the UK food market. But I think nobody wants to talk about it right now because there is still a hope and expectation that a level of sanity will prevail," Mr Creed said.

The minister added he is optimistic Ireland will succeed - but given the level of money to be sought this cannot be taken for granted.

"I think we would get help. It's all about the level of help," Mr Creed added.

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