ICMSA President John Comer has welcomed the strong indications from Brussels that the needs of Ireland will be put centre stage by the EU-27, in the context of the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

“And this is the way it should be. Ireland is the country that is most exposed to the impact of whatever final Brexit deal is arrived at.”

“But the devil is in the detail,” Comer added. “We need a Brexit deal which ensures that trade levels between Ireland and the UK are fully maintained. Agriculture and food are the two industries that are most exposed to Brexit.

“Beef is critically important in this regard. But so is dairy. Approximately 60% of our cheddar output is currently exported to the UK.

If this market is taken away from us, on the back of the wrong Brexit deal, it would take up to 30 years to find and develop new outlets for this cheese.

Comer said that the Taoiseach and the current Irish Government are doing a good job in forging strong diplomatic alliances with other EU member states.

“There will be no side deal done between Ireland and the UK on any issue. The final Brexit agreement will be settled between Brussels and London.”

The ICMSA President said that Brexit remains a massive challenge, which no one should underestimate.

“From an Irish perspective, getting the right trade deal and, thereafter, ensuring that an effective CAP budget remains in place are core objectives moving forward.

“There must also be total unity amongst the EU-27 on all these matters. And I am glad that there is little or no talk about Ireland leaving the EU here at home.

“But, fundamentally, it’s in Britain’s interest to get a workable Brexit deal with Europe and vice versa. Both parties must show a degree of common sense when it comes to sorting this matter out.”