The threats posed by Brexit to Irish agriculture were top of the agenda as the IFA President Joe Healy met with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan.

A particular focus was placed on border and trade issues during the course of the meeting. Healy reiterated the fact that Ireland is the most exposed EU member state in relation to Brexit negotiations.

With 40% of Ireland’s agri-food exports going to the UK each year, agriculture is the most exposed Irish sector, he said.

“The Government’s position on Brexit must reflect the unique difficulties Irish agriculture faces and use all political capital to ensure a strong negotiating stance by European political leaders to achieve the best outcome for farming.”

The land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland creates an ‘additional serious challenge‘ for Irish agriculture, Healy said.

“The level of trade and co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic is very significant, with geographical proximity creating a highly-integrated and established trade flow of both finished products and products requiring further processing.

Any hard border situation that would damage the free flow of agricultural products, or increase the costs involved, would be devastating for farmers on both sides of the border and must be avoided.

The IFA President reportedly discussed the IFA’s Brexit policy priorities, as spelled out in the recently-launched policy document ‘Brexit: The Imperatives for Irish Farmers and the Agri-food sector’, with Minister Flanagan.

The IFA is clear that, if the UK exits the Customs Union, there must be a comprehensive free-trade agreement between the EU and UK.

This agreement would include the following specific elements for agriculture and food:
  • Tariff-free trade for agricultural products and food.
  • Maintenance of equivalent standards on food safety, animal health, welfare and the environment.
  • Application of the Common External Tariff for imports to both the EU and UK.

The IFA is set to hold a ‘major’ Brexit event on Monday, April 24. A range of political leaders, at both Irish and EU level, and key stakeholders in the Irish farming and food sectors are set to discuss the implications of Brexit at the conference.

The EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, a number of IFA representatives and industry leaders will speak at the event in Goffs, Co. Kildare.