‘We need a heavy-hitter nominated’ for trade portfolio – ICMSA

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) is calling for a “heavy-hitter” to be nominated for the trade portfolio in the European Commission, following Phil Hogan’s resignation yesterday evening (Wednesday, August 26).

Hogan resigned from his position as the trade commissioner following on from the mounting fallout from his attendance at the Oireachtas Golf Society function last week, and the ensuing public debate about his conduct in relation to public health guidelines.

‘We need a heavy-hitter’

President of the ICMSA, Pat McCormack, said that the Irish priority now must be “to retain the trade portfolio within the European Commission, and that can only happen if the government nominates someone with the requisite skill set and a record of political and negotiating achievement”.

Today (Thursday, August 27), the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said that it is now “up to the Irish government to present suitable candidates for a commissioner of Irish nationality”.

McCormack commented: “If we nominate someone who the commission doesn’t think has the ability to execute this most challenging brief, then that brief will be re-allocated and our new commissioner will be given a brief of lesser economic and political importance.

“There’s no point is denying that reality – we need a heavy-hitter nominated and we must secure the trade portfolio.”

‘Farming and food sectors effectively rudderless’

McCormack said that Ireland’s “multi-billion farming and food sectors are now effectively rudderless” with neither a Minister for Agriculture or representation at commission level by someone “familiar with their problems and strengths”.

He added that, given Brexit, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Mercosur and climate change to name a few of the issues to be addressed, this is “hugely alarming and the government needs to get to grips with this immediately”.

“I think we’ve been patient long enough and the government will understand if we start to think that we’ve been taken very much for granted,” McCormack said.

“We require immediately the appointment of a Minister for Agriculture who knows the sector and will fight at the cabinet and at EU level for our sector and our unique family-farm system.

The government must also nominate someone for the role of commissioner who appreciates the overwhelming need for Ireland to facilitate a deal with the UK and resist the demoralised drift to a ‘no-deal’ exit that is looming up at year’s end.

“It’s quite extraordinary how much Brexit seems to have fallen off the political radar and how complacent we seem to have become about the threat it represents to billions worth of food exports to UK markets that we have held for centuries.”

McCormack concluded that the farming sector is “starting to suffer from lack of control and strategic direction”.

“We need that direction and competence and we’re certainly not getting it from our government at present.”