Brexit to have ‘real-life impact’ on agriculture – McGrath

Michael McGrath, Fianna Fail’s spokesperson on finance, has warned that Brexit will have a “real-life impact” which would be greater among farmers and the agricultural sector.

McGrath was reacting to a statement from Paschal Donohoe – the Minister for Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – who said that the agri-food sector would be the most adversely affected area of the economy after a no-deal Brexit.

Minister Donohoe yesterday (January 29) published his department’s initial assessment of the economic and fiscal impacts of a no-deal scenario, with McGrath welcoming the move by the minister.

The further into the regions you go, the greater the impact would be, given the importance of agriculture and the overall food sector in those areas. The preparations being made by the Government for a no-deal Brexit must reflect this reality.

However, McGrath argued that the assessment may not have taken account of “human behaviour”.

“It is inevitable that, in a no-deal scenario where uncertainty is rife, many investment decisions would be stalled and consumer sentiment would take a major hit,” argued McGrath.

Brexit drama

McGrath went on to add: “As the Brexit drama plays out in Westminster, the outcome in the coming months will have a critical bearing on the direction of the Irish economy and the quality of lives of our citizens in the years ahead.”

That drama took another twist late yesterday, when UK politicians voted in the House of Commons for an amendment that calls for the Northern Ireland backstop to be renegotiated.

The backstop, which would ensure that trade between Ireland and the UK continued without tariffs, was attacked by hard-line Brexiteers for keeping the UK in a customs arrangement with the EU.

However, in response, senior EU officials have reiterated their point that they will not renegotiate the backstop.