‘Confusion on Brexit border arrangements is actually growing’

The publication of the European Union’s proposed legal text on the Brexit border question has been welcomed by the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) Pat McCormack.

However, if anything, the level of confusion around the future border arrangements between the UK and the Republic is actually growing, given the political wrangling surrounding such an agreement, McCormack said.

“No one is pretending that this is simple and, certainly, things are not helped by senior British politicians apparently discounting commitments previously given and which have been accepted as presenting a sincere position,” the president said.

“But ICMSA’s members and agri-related businesses are now looking at all this and, like other exporting sectors operating on both sides of the border, are wondering when we’re going to see the degree of clarity that we desperately need.

We’re just over a year away from the effective date and we still have nothing to go on; nothing that allows us to plan or predict.

McCormack stated that, while the politicians argue, business planning is frozen; this cannot continue for another year, he stressed.

“In the interests of every individual and business on both sides of the border, we would want to have some framework settled very, very quickly that allow business owners like farmers to plan accordingly,” McCormack concluded.

Meanwhile, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy said the legal text was the inevitable result of the UK’s insistence on leaving the Customs Union.

He said: “The Irish Government has to maintain its focus on the relationship between the EU and the entirety of the UK, and the need for the UK to maintain full regulatory alignment with the EU in the area of agriculture and food in any future relationship.”

Legal text

The EU’s proposed legal text on Brexit has put forward the theory that the territory of Northern Ireland will be “considered part of the customs territory of the EU” should the alignment option in the agreement made last December be implemented.

The legal text specifically outlines how Northern Ireland would remain within the customs union and single market, if no other arrangement is agreed upon.

However, British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that agreeing to such a text would undermine the UK’s common market and threaten the country’s constitutional integrity, adding that no UK prime minister could ever agree to it.