How is the Department of Agriculture preparing for a no-deal Brexit?

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is upping the ante in its preparation for a no-deal Brexit, according to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

The minister explained how his department is intensifying preparations on tonight’s episode of FarmLand to presenter Claire Mc Cormack.

Outlining what is being done, Minister Creed said: “Even at a government decision today, we have taken steps to intensify that preparation for a no-deal Brexit.”

He said that his department’s preparations for a no-deal scenario are to do with the built infrastructure that’s required around the country’s ports and airports, including the staffing requirements.

The minister added that such requirements “are all now going to be accelerated to take account of the UK being a third country leaving without any agreement about what the future trading relationship is, becoming de-facto a third country and all the requirements that go with it in terms of treating them as we do every other third country”.

So that requires all of the checks and balances. And that’s a scenario we want to avoid – we want a withdrawal agreement, we want then the negotiations around that – we want the transition period, within which we negotiate the future trading relationship.

“But if the UK crashes out we have to be ready for that as well.

The minister warned that such a transition will not be seamless in his view, adding that no country will be ready to “hit the ground running” with all infrastructure in place for a no-deal outcome.

“There will be an element of crisis management in that context, but we will be accelerating our preparedness for that scenario now.”

Minister Creed confirmed that additional staff will be recruited and in place at a sooner-than-anticipated rate, adding that hundreds of positions will be filled and that recruitment process is already underway.

We have provision in our budget for 2019 of €7 million to deal with some of the infrastructure requirements around ports, airports, border post stations etc in the context of imported goods coming in from the UK.

“Obviously in a no-deal scenario, that will have to be enhanced; the levels of checks will have to be enhanced, and that will bring additional staffing requirements.

‘Damage limitation’

Minister Creed also commented on the current volatility of the sterling currency, noting that the Department of Agriculture is tracking it on an almost daily basis and acknowledging the recent movement that puts Irish exporters at a disadvantage.

He said that this has already been felt among other industries, highlighting the mushroom industry in particular.

“We’ve been trying to deal with this already in terms of some of the initiatives we’ve brought in, in terms of lean manufacturing, in terms of financial assistance, capital grants for the horticulture side in terms of low-interest loans etc.

“But look, we have to face the reality that Brexit is not of our making; it’s a mess for us that we have to manage as best we can – but we cannot avoid all of the consequences of it.

Post Brexit will never be as good as what we have today with the UK as a member of the European Union, as a member of the customs union, as a member of the single market – and what we are doing is a damage limitation.

“The damage will be less if we have an agreed future trading relationship; the damage will be significantly greater if we have a crash out Brexit,” Minister Creed said.

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