Serious concerns have been expressed for Irish agriculture following the release of the Government’s Contingency Action Plan for a no-deal Brexit, published last night (Wednesday, December 19).
In the working document – available here – the Government recognises that, given the proximity of the formal date for UK exit from the EU of March 29 next year, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is “very real”.
It states that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will consider the redeployment of existing staff to Irish ports and airports – such as those put in place for the response to Foot-and-mouth disease – in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
However, the document outlines that the department is currently implementing the steps necessary to facilitate potentially increased Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) controls which – in turn – will require staffing, infrastructural and Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) requirements to be addressed at ports and airports.
A new Environmental Health Officer Panel is also scheduled to be in place by February 2019 and can be deployed rapidly in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
Speaking earlier on RTE Radio 1 show Morning Ireland, Fianna Fail’s Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers voiced her concerns.
“The biggest concern for me reading this document is around agriculture and agri-food. It is by far the most affected sector.
The only plan that I can see is to diversify markets to try and move away from the UK being our biggest market. But that is a medium to long-term goal.
“In the short term, the agri sector is extremely exposed and I am not satisfied that there is sufficient planning done to try and protect against that,” she said.
The Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney, has stated that there is “no contingency plan” in place to avoid a hard border.
We don’t have a contingency plan to avoid a hard border in this document; that does not mean we are not absolutely committed to avoiding border infrastructure.
“It becomes very, very difficult to get right, in the absence of a deal that has already been agreed and is on the table. There are no easy answers,” he said last night (Wednesday, December 19).
In the working document the Government recognises that, given the proximity of the formal date for UK exit from the EU of March 29, 2019, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit is “very real“.
The Government also states its “regret” that, as of yet, the withdrawal agreement – agreed between the EU, including Ireland, and the UK – has not been approved by the UK Parliament.