Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth is calling on the Agriculture Minister to beef up the Government’s Brexit plans ahead of the triggering of Article 50.  She has described the Government’s approach to date as laissez faire and is warning that unless a coherent plan is adopted, the agri-food sector will be severely impacted.

Deputy Smyth commented, “The UK’s decision to leave the UK will have serious ramifications for Ireland, and nowhere will feel the fallout more than the border region.  The agri-sector here has already been impacted by weak Sterling, with the mushroom industry being particularly hard hit.  This is extremely worrying given the region’s dependence on the sector, and the vulnerability of the industry to outside and market forces.

“The Irish Government has a responsibility to protect Irish farmers and the Irish agri-sector, however the approach of Minister Creed and his Cabinet colleagues to date does not inspire confidence.  Minister Creed has been talking up the Brexit Consultative Committee of Stakeholders, however the reality of the matter is that this Committee has only met twice since it was established last July.

“Information released to Fianna Fáil also reveals that Minister Michael Creed has assigned only 3 staff members to a dedicated Brexit unit.  This raises very serious questions about the Government’s preparedness for the hard Brexit which is coming down the line.

“We have been arguing for a seamless and frictionless border and for the continuation of the Common Travel Area, however our Government has been unable to provide any detail about how that can be achieved.  This poses major problems for our agri-food sector, which exports 37% of its produce to Northern Ireland and the UK.  The possible return of custom controls also raises concerns regarding smuggling along the 310 mile border. This could be detrimental to businesses north and south of the border.

“I am calling on Minister Creed to outline a clear coherent plan on how the Government plans to deal with the impact of Brexit on our agri-food sector.  The approach to date leaves much to be desired and is creating an air of uncertainty in the industry.  This must not be allowed to continue and the Minister must begin providing concrete assurances to farmers and producers that their interests will be protected and supported”.