'Don't panic over UK's no-deal tariff stunt,' says Hogan
EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan has warned Irish farmers to stay calm amid Brexit turmoil as he accused the British government of a "political stunt" over the no-deal tariff regime published this week.
Amid ongoing uncertainty over what the outcome of Brexit will be, Mr Hogan pledged that Europe will not be found wanting in relation to bailing out Irish farmers if Brexit goes off the cliff edge.
Details of the package from the EU will not be finalised until Brexit takes place but it is accepted that "significant" intervention will be needed to bolster the sector if Britain crashes out of the EU.
However, the commissioner said the "chief threats" hanging over the Brexit talks are gone after the British parliament voted against a crash-out.
"We need to stay calm and not react to the UK's tariff statement published during the week. This was a political stunt, pure and simple, designed to change the news cycle in the UK and weaken the unity of the EU 26 in relation to the Irish backstop," he said.
This week the UK government released details of a tariff schedule it plans to implement in a no deal which would heap pressure on Irish farmers and effectively turn Northern Ireland into a smugglers paradise - sparking panic among farmers.
"I want to assure Irish farmers that the EU's resolve will not buckle. Solidarity behind Ireland remains rock solid, steadfast and unwavering.
"So the EU and I, as commissioner for agriculture, stand ready to help our farmers at the appropriate time. We don't know the outcome of these negotiations from London's point of view and therefore we can't come to any conclusions on what the appropriate response will be. We shouldn't talk ourselves down in to a crisis either," he said.
Mr Hogan said that the EU has supports ready for farmers in the event of a hard Brexit but that farmers must "not talk themselves in to a crisis".
He also hit out at the "howling" seen in Westminster in recent weeks which he claimed "is becoming an embarrassment at this point and a stain on the UK's standing in the world".
Speaking at the Navigating Global Trade event, hosted by Grant Thornton and the 'Irish Farmers Journal' in the RDS, Mr Hogan pointed out that additional supports must be put in place for Irish farmers and guaranteed that there would be no change to direct payments paid to farmers in 2019.
"This is not the first time Irish agriculture has faced a risk of large proportions. In my political lifetime we have had to deal with BSE, foot and mouth, and the recent markets crisis arising from the Russian embargo," he said.
"In all these cases, the commission dipped into its toolbox to offer strong support, and Brexit will be no different - the same instruments are in place and ready to be deployed.
"There is recognition across the EU of Ireland's vulnerability in relation to Brexit, particularly our beef sector. There must be additional support available for Irish farmers. Irish agri-food companies have already been granted State aid relief. My services are making good progress on putting structures in place for transport and logistics, SPS issues, customs checks and all related challenges."
He pointed out that in relation to the UK market, the competition will be unable to fill market demand overnight and consumers in the UK are not going to stop eating high-quality Irish beef overnight either.