‘Prepare now’ minister tells businesses ahead of new year

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue is urging agri-food businesses to “prepare now” for the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year, when the window for negotiating a trade deal between the EU and the UK will run out.

Talks on a trade deal between the EU and the UK have resumed, after hitting an even-bumpier-than-usual spell in recent weeks.

Responding to this development, Minister McConalogue welcomed it, saying the talks now aim to close the gaps between the two sides.

Speaking to the Brexit Stakeholders Committee today (Thursday, October 22), the minister urged agri-food businesses to “immediately take the practical steps necessary to prepare for the changes that Brexit will bring from January 1”.

“This meeting is being held at a critical time, given that there are only around 70 days until the ‘economic’ Brexit becomes a reality for us all. We have said this before, but it bears repeating. Things will change on January 1, 2021, and we need to understand what this will mean and be ready for it,” the minister stressed.

“There will be additional delays and costs, and businesses need to factor this into their planning for the period from January 1 onwards,” he added.

Officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine updated stakeholders in relation to the Brexit readiness work that has been completed and on other ongoing work.

Stakeholders were again encouraged to ask their members who trade with Great Britain to register with the department so that they will receive relevant information directly, and to register with Revenue to obtain an Economic Operators’ Registration and Identification (EORI) number.

Other government departments were also involved in today’s stakeholder meeting.

The Department of Foreign Affairs gave an update on the state of play of EU-UK negotiations and the implementation of the withdrawal agreement, including the protocol on Northern Ireland.

The Department of Transport provided an update in relation to the issue of direct ferry connections to the continent. Minister McConalogue encouraged businesses to engage with ferry companies on direct services in order to avoid potential delays on the UK land-bridge.

Concluding his remarks at the meeting, Minister McConalogue said: “With just over two months until the end of the transition period, time is very short and action is required urgently. This is not something that can be left to the last minute, so I would appeal to businesses in the agri-food sector to take action now.”