Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture, Food & the Marine Charlie McConalogue says he’s become increasingly worried about the impact of the government’s lack of preparedness for a no deal Brexit on the agri-food sector.

Deputy McConalogue has described as “alarming” the fact that the Agriculture Minister was unable to give a definitive answer when asked how many SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) and veterinary officials will be employed by the State on March 30th in the event of a no deal scenario.

“There’s only a matter of weeks until Britain is due to leave the EU, and unfortunately the prospect of a no-deal Brexit cannot be ruled out.  I am growing increasingly worried by what appears to be an astonishing lack of contingency planning for the agri-food sector.  The Minister for Finance has been able to confirm that 200 additional customs officials will be operational on by March deadline.  What can’t the Agriculture Minister provide the same data?” asked Deputy McConalogue.

“What is also a cause for concern is the fact that only 53 veterinary officials have been hired since the Brexit referendum in 2016.

“Last summer, the Taoiseach announced that the government was planning to hire 300 veterinary inspectors in the event of no deal Brexit.  Following that it was confirmed that 116 staff would be recruited for SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) and fisheries control checks.  However, the no deal plan published just before Christmas stated failed to set out a timeline for recruitment.

“We are also waiting for infrastructure at Dublin and Rosslare ports to be upgraded so that they can cope with anticipated paperwork and control checks which will have to be carried out in the event that the UK becomes a third country.  Neither the Department of Agriculture nor the Office of Public Works spent any money on this work in 2018.

“I am urging Minister Creed and his Cabinet colleagues to clarify these issues as a matter of urgency to allay the fears of agri community, who share my concerns about our preparedness for a no deal scenario”.