No-Deal technical papers ‘sobering reading’ for Northern Ireland

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has said the first set of Government ‘No-Deal’ technical papers make “sobering reading” and reinforces the importance of securing a suitable exit deal.

The union was among several bodies warning that a No-Deal exit would have “disastrous consequences” for farm businesses and the economy in Northern Ireland.

UFU president, Ivor Ferguson said: “March 2019 is fast approaching. We recognise the UK Government must prepare for all outcomes and while the papers don’t say much we didn’t already know on either future agriculture policy or trading arrangements – which are the major issues for us – they are a stark reminder of what is at stake if we end up in a no-deal situation.

The importance of maintaining free and frictionless trade with the EU for the farming industry cannot be overstated.

From the outset of the Brexit negotiations, the UFU has stressed that any solution must ensure minimal disruptions to trade north and south, while at the same time, not hampering east and west trade.

“GB remains our biggest market and the Republic of Ireland has always been one of our main trading partners. Trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland existed long before either country joined the EEC. It is essential that it is maintained,” Ferguson said.

He added that a No-Deal exit would be the “worst possible outcome” for the farming industry.

‘A worst-case scenario’

Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), echoed the farming union president’s sentiments and said a deal was now “more crucial than ever”.

He said: “A No-Deal Brexit scenario is the worst-case outcome and one which we hope will be avoided.

“However, in the absence of significant progress, we welcome the publication of these notices which confirm that a No-Deal exit from the European Union would be disastrous for our food and drink industry.

“We share the concerns of colleagues across the UK in relation to the additional burdens which could be placed on the sector if there is a no-deal exit.

Any UK food that currently displays EU marks or logos could face a ban on exports to the EU for at least nine months, which would be detrimental to many producers.

“Northern Ireland is uniquely affected by Brexit and the implications of a No-Deal exit would be even more significant here than in other parts of the UK.

“There is still no substantive information on how businesses here can mitigate against these unique challenges and we call on the UK Government to provide guidance as a matter of urgency.”