Opening Remarks by Brendan Smith TD at Agriculture Number 1 Branch of IMPACT’s Annual Delegate Meeting
Food industry is the most exposed sector should the UK leave the single market and customs union. Any potential erection of trade barriers would be catastrophic given 40% of total Irish agri-food exports go to the British market (50% of beef and a third of dairy product).
We urgently need to source new third country markets outside the UK to reduce this exposure. My party campaigned for extra funds for Bord Bia to expand their work on this front and welcomed the recent additional funds secured (€6.75m in September).
The possibility of a hard border between the North and South due to Brexit would be disastrous, considering the amount of cross-border agri-food trade with different stages of production taking place on both sides of the border.
For example, 25% of the Northern Ireland milk pool goes south for processing; along with 36% of Northern Irish lamb. Meanwhile, large numbers of live cattle and pigs are transported up North.
It is imperative that the interests of farmers on the island of Ireland are taken on board in any future EU-UK negotiations due to the interdependent trading relationship.
The special status of Northern Ireland must be secured in any final deal. There is legal precedent considering the Good Friday Agreement as an international treaty signed by Ireland and the UK confers recognition by all parties that the island of Ireland is a ‘special case’.
Meanwhile, it would be very regressive for the all island food supply chain if two different regulatory systems came on line post Brexit in the absence of any deal being reached. It is vital that we maintain the premier standards in food production and animal welfare currently in operation across the island.
All government supports and policy levers need to be activated to safeguard farmers and Irish agri-food enterprises from a hard Brexit island wide.