Calls for ‘Irish Milk’ to be recognised as an all-island product

An ICOS delegation has told representatives of the EU Commission’s Brexit negotiating team that milk produced on the island of Ireland should be officially classified as ‘Irish’.

This would be one way of maintaining cross-border trade links into the future.

The ICOS representatives also pointed out that, without a firm continuation of north-south trade, there would be inestimable damage to the fragile rural economies in the border counties of Ireland

The Commission representatives were told that Brexit poses a huge number of challenges for Irish co-operatives due to strong trade links with the UK and business structures which span the north and south of Ireland.

ICOS said that its priority for the negotiations is to ensure that these deep trading ties and the integrated all-island agricultural economy are recognised and facilitated in the outcome of the discussions.

It was confirmed at the meeting that the “Brexit” negotiation will not include a specific agreement on market access terms following the UK’s departure from the EU. However, it will have some consideration for the future framework of EU-UK

ICOS emphasised that it is vital for agriculture to be given sufficient time to prepare for the introduction of new customs arrangements and adjust their supply lines in response.

The point was made that new trading markets cannot be established overnight but need a number of years to be developed.

There was also recognition for the Irish dairy sector to differentiate its production processes, for example away from cheddar cheese, should UK market access be more restrictive.

The ICOS delegation called for the upcoming negotiations to secure a clear framework to allow future market access terms that are as close as possible to the status quo and  to avoid the disruption of trade.

ICOS President Martin Keane said that the Commission was very well informed on the issues facing Irish agri-businesses resulting from Brexit and had a deep understanding of the technical details of the trading relationships between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

“ICOS shared with the Commission the view that practical solutions are needed to avoid the introduction of a physical border between the north and south of Ireland.

“We emphasised that, as much as possible, the negotiation of a new customs agreement with the UK must allow for the continuation of current north-south trade and co-ordination on issues such as animal health strategies, food chain traceability and so on.”

It was highlighted that without this trade, there would be inestimable damage done to the fragile rural economies in the border counties of Ireland.

“One of the solutions ICOS proposed was for the recognition of “Irish Milk” as coming from the island of Ireland. Ideally this will allow for the continued trade of milk across the border, without being hindered by burdensome customs and labelling regulations.”

Strathroy Dairy director Ruairi Cunningham has welcomed the stance taken by ICOS.

“The position taken puts the needs of farmers throughout the island of Ireland first. And this is the only Brexit solution that makes sense.”