‘Protection of Irish agriculture requires a bilateral trade agreement with the UK’

The protection of Irish agriculture sectors requires a bilateral trade agreement with the UK with none or minimal tariffs following Brexit, Macra na Feirme President, Sean Finan has said.

Finan was speaking following a recent meeting of the Macra Agricultural Affairs committee, where the implications of Brexit on the future viability of young farmers businesses was discussed.

“The collapse of the value of Sterling is concerning. Young farmers are adamant that processors cannot be allowed to take advantage of the situation.”

Speaking about a potential special trade agreement between the UK and Ireland, Finan said that the protection of Irish agriculture sectors requires a bilateral trade agreement with the UK with none or minimal tariffs – that must be a top priority of the Irish government in any future negotiation.

“As young farmers we have the most to lose from Brexit as we are establishing our careers in the sector and are more vulnerable to short term uncertainty because we don’t have the means to shield us from this volatility, I would hope that the government will do all they can to protect young farmer interests as we get a better idea of what the Brexit will actually mean,” Finan said.

Ireland’s relationship with the UK is unique, as we share a land border in the form of Northern Ireland with the UK.

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron (who has announced that he is to resign later this year), last week said that in the event of a Brexit, there will be new border controls between the North and the south.

Specific issues for Ireland and the UK would need to be addressed, including the volumes of milk that come into Ireland for manufacturing milk. That milk could not be processed into a product that could carry a ‘produce of EU’ label.

Furthermore, Ireland is reliant on the UK for our agri-food exports. In 2015, Bord Bia figures show that 30% of Ireland’s dairy exports went to the UK which is equivalent to roughly €1 billion.

On the beef front, 52% of our total exports went in the UKs direction, which Bord Bia valued at €1.1 billion.

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