How the return of border controls would pose a serious threat to Irish farming

The European Parliament’s Agriculture & Rural Development committee should recognise the particular challenges presented to Irish farming by Brexit and the EU should put supports in place, according to Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy.

He made a formal submission to the committee on its Brexit Resolution, outlining these points.

Speaking from Strasbourg, Carthy explained: “The possible return of border controls poses serious threats to the Irish agriculture and agri-food sectors. This industry operates in a highly-integrated manner, with many sectors being entirely all-island in nature.

“The submission I have made to the Agriculture and Rural Development committee’s Brexit Resolution highlights Ireland’s special interests and vulnerabilities and urges the recognition of the unique situation of Ireland – north and south.

“Barriers, of any nature on the island of Ireland, including tariffs, origin checks, import licence requirements, documentation and additional paperwork, physical border checks as well as the costs of complying with two different regulatory regimes would seriously disrupt long-established all-island industries.

“This is due to the large number of products that travel north and south for processing, slaughter and breeding every day.”

Take for instance wheat, which is grown mostly in the south, sent north for milling, and then ‘re-imported’ south. Or the 1,000 live bovines and 10,000 live pigs that travel south to north for slaughter each week. Or 25% of the north’s milk production that travels south for processing.

“Tariffs or unduly onerous labelling requirements would spell disaster for farmers involved in these chains.”

He added: “I have called for Northern Ireland to be able to participate in the EU Geographical Indications scheme, especially due to the fact that some GIs (such as Irish Whiskey) cover the entire Island. I further called for solutions to be found for labelling requirements, since Brexit implications will only exacerbate the issues farmers operating on a cross-border basis have faced with regard to country-of-origin labels.

“With regard to Irish sectors with a heavy dependence on British markets, I have called on the European Commission to be ready to make full use of the flexibility provided under Article 219 of the Common Market Organisation Regulation (1303/2013). It provides for exceptional measures against market disturbances.

This is bearing in mind the disastrous effects felt already by the mushroom sector. The Commission must guarantee the survival of these sectors throughout the negotiations.

“Finally, I have highlighted that returning to WTO trade rules represents the worst case scenario for the agri-sector. This situation would raise issues such as trade diversion, state aid rules and seismic shifts with regard to existing Tariff Rate Quotas.

“I will be engaging with other political groups in the coming days, to impress upon them the need for a special designated status for Northern Ireland. This is a crucial requirement for all our farmers who operate on a cross-border basis every day.”