‘Brexit is too important of an issue to have just one Minister’

Brexit is too important of a issue to have just one Minister covering it, according to the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

Minister Creed, who closed the 40th annual Irish Co-operative Society Conference (ICOS) conference on Tuesday, said Brexit is to the forefront of the Government’s minds.

The Cork TD said that UK’s decision to leave the European Union presents enormous challenges for Irish agriculture and the agri-food sector.

“It is essential that we retain our national competitiveness as much as we possibly can, while mitigating the possible effects of Britain’s exit from the European Union,” he said.

The issue is entirely more important than a single Department or Ministry, that’s why what is happening is being lead out of the Taoiseach’s Department.

“It is a whole of government issue. It is huge in the area of agriculture and the impacts on everything we do,” he said.

The main areas in which Brexit affects Ireland, he said, are currency fluctuations, tariffs on trade, the EU budget, regulations and standards and controls and customs.

Ireland will not turn its back on the UK market

Minister Creed also said that the UK market is important for Irish agriculture, and although progress has been made in open new markets Ireland will not turn its back on the market we understand best.

“It is the market that has lowest cost in terms of access and its one in many commodity areas that provides the best return for our agri-food sector.

In value terms, its over €5 billion and 43% of our exports. On the beef side, it is just north of €1 billion and just under €1 billion on the dairy side.

“So the stakes are enormously high for us and that’s why we have had a very comprehensive response dealing with the business and political side,” he said.

Minister Michael Creed closing the ICOS conference
Minister Michael Creed closing the ICOS conference

How is the Department dealing with Brexit?

Minister Creed also discussed how his Department and the Government as a whole are dealing with the issue of Brexit.

“My Department is engaged in detailed contingency planning and has published a summary of the key actions that we are taking by way of immediate response to the UK’s decision, as well as feeding into the central contingent framework being co-ordinated by the Department of the Taoiseach.

We are also continuing to deepen our analysis of the likely impacts.

“Among the early steps taken by my Department was the establishment of a Brexit unit within the Department, the convening of a consultative committee of stakeholders and the establishment of a contact group under the affixes of the Food Wise Implementation committee.

“My Department is participating fully in the inter Departmental working groups on Brexit and chairs a specific agri-food sub group.

“Contacts between the Irish, Northern Ireland and UK administrations are also ongoing a both political and official levels,” he added.

Along with contingency planning, he said that the Department of Agriculture is working closely with a number of Departments across Europe, while state agencies are also continuing their efforts to support companies, especially small-to-medium enterprises, to cope with the fall out from Brexit.