Members of farm organisations from Ireland and the UK have met to discuss issues surrounding the Northern Ireland (NI) Protocol.

President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, said that discussions took place on the question of the NI Protocol and the threats presented by the British Government’s threat to unilaterally override aspects of the agreement.  

He has been speaking following the meeting of Fairness for Farmers in Europe (FFE), an umbrella group of farm organisations from across the UK, Europe and Ireland.

NI Protocol

McCormack said that ICMSA was happy to acknowledge the specific issues that British farmers had in relation to the implementation of the protocol.

However, he stressed that the degree of integration that applied within the Irish dairy sector – north and south – did not allow for the kind of disengagement that would have to be attempted if the British Government was to continue on its unworkable course.  

The ICMSA president added that there had been broad agreement on the need to stop any kind of escalation into a ‘trade war’ that would damage quota-free and tariff-free trade between the EU and the UK.

He said that the Irish participants had stressed that such a disastrous outcome for all could occur if the British Government persisted with the course reaffirmed as recently as last evening in Westminster.

“[It] would, inevitably, end in disaster for both Irish and British farmers at a time when the challenge from issues other than trade was going to become extremely challenging and complex,” McCormack said.

He added that there had been consensus on both sides, and all participants – as farmers – understood that it was vital that farmers did not end up with the bill for political failings.

UK moves

Last month, UK foreign secretary, Liz Truss, announced selective unilateral action regarding the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

At the time, she said: “Our shared objective has to be to find a solution that commands the broadest possible cross-community support for years to come and protect the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions.

“That is why I am announcing our intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to make changes in the protocol.”

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) is planning to take legal action against the UK over proposed changes to the protocol.

The vice-president of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic, said that overriding parts of the Brexit deal which included the NI Protocol arrangement, would break international law.