Government’s Brexit contingency plan includes dedicated agri-food unit

The Irish agri-food sector is to have a dedicated unit set up in the Department of Agriculture, under the Government’s Brexit contingency plan.

The contingency plan was announced today, in the wake of the Brexit vote in the UK to leave the EU. As part of it, the Department of Agriculture will have a dedicated unit “to work on relevant sectoral issues and the Minister will convene a consultative committee of stakeholders to ensure a full exchange of information as the negotiations proceed”.

Bord Bia will provide practical guidance to SMEs to assist them in dealing with marketing challenges and the management of volatility arising in the short term. Additionally, Bord Bia’s London office will immediately engage with Ireland’s leading customers across the UK.

The contingency plan also says that the impact on enterprise and trade in Border counties will be monitored closely.

The Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, said today that the result of the UK EU referendum has the potential to give rise to significant challenges for the Irish agri-food sector, and said he is keenly aware of the concerns of those working in the sector about the UK exit decision.

“The UK is by far our largest trading partner in the agri-food sector.  Ireland is also the UK’s largest destination for its food exports. Given these linkages, and as the UK is a net food importer, both countries have a strong interest in maintaining a close agri-food trading relationship.

Safeguarding the interests of the Irish agri-food sector will be central in informing the Government’s overall approach to all negotiations pertaining to the UK’s exit from the EU.”

He said that while his Department and our agencies, in association with our stakeholders, have been giving careful consideration to the potential impacts of a UK exit, it is important to bear in mind that the EU Treaty provides a two-year period for negotiation of exit arrangements.

The main areas in which potential impacts are foreseen, he said, are in relation currency fluctuations, tariffs and trade, the EU budget, regulations and standards, and customs controls and certification.

“The UK exit vote also raises complex issues for the fisheries sector. Of course, the most immediate concerns for agri-food exporters centre on exchange rates.”

Bord Bia Chief Executive Aidan Cotter said that Brexit represents a “significant challenge to Ireland’s agri-food industry”.

“The UK is Ireland’s largest customer for food and drink. Despite its continuing and expanding global reach, the UK has continued to represent a growth opportunity for the Irish food and drink industry, driven by a strong economy and an increasing population.

“The UK is a net importer of food and Ireland as an exporter is considered a perfect match. The immediate focus of food and drink exporters concerns the development in the Sterling versus euro relationship and how to manage the increased volatility that has emerged following the vote.”