Ahern to UK: No-deal Brexit would be ‘devastating’ for Irish agri sector

A no-deal Brexit would have a devastating effect on Irish agriculture, according to former taoiseach of Ireland Bertie Ahern.

Ahern was speaking to the UK Parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee in London today (Wednesday, February 13).

Addressing the committee in a private capacity, stressing that he was not representing the Irish Government or any political element, the former taoiseach said:

“The indigenous sector would suffer; the indigenous agri-food sector would really, really suffer.

It’s estimated that you would lose about 40,000 jobs, in our terms that’s an awful lot of jobs. Unemployment would go up by about 2% and the tariffs on beef and dairy in particular would be devastating.

Ahern noted that overall figures might not look too horrific but that it would have a major impact on agricultural producers.

“When you look at the small, indigenous family farms, indigenous strong employer companies, it would be devastating. There’s no doubt about that and I think a no deal would create huge problems.

“That’s not to mention sterling at all. What happens with sterling could – I’m not into the guessing sterling; I never have been, even when I was finance minister but that could really on top of that have a huge effect,” he added.

When quizzed by the committee as to whether he believes an extension could be granted, Ahern said:

My assessment is that if – I know the rule is that there has to be grounds in A, B or C – but it would be very hard – in my view impossible – not to grant an extension; whether that extension is short or long.

He added that if the UK put forward a “substantive reason”, he could not see why an extension would be rejected.

Speaking to AgriLand on an episode of FarmLand, the former taoiseach previously expressed his view that an extension would be sought and granted before Brexit departure day.

“I’m fairly certain there’ll be an extension,” Ahern told AgriLand back in September.

“Everyone is saying at the moment there won’t so I’m going against the tide but I think there will.”