First and foremost, a post-Brexit arrangement that maintains tariff-free trade between Ireland and the UK is Ireland’s ‘holy grail’, according to President of the ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association) John Comer.
This, Comer said, is what the state wants and needs – and the proposals that comes closest to replicating current arrangements will obviously be what we will, or at least should be, targeting.
To that extent, the UK’s position papers will bring about a good deal of interest in terms of the aspiration to a continuation of trade on current arrangements.
But, the president added, the problems are already obvious and they rest on political as opposed trade considerations: “Effectively the UK proposals amount to Boris Johnson’s ‘have cake and eat it’ ambition which seeks to retain trade arrangements with the EU ‘as is’ without any of what they perceive as the disadvantages of membership of either the EU or the customs union.
“And while the trade arrangements envisaged on that model would suit us perfectly, realistically it would be a very hard sell to several other member states who wouldn’t have the kind of critical trade relationship we have – and who might therefore be much more likely to view this through a political lens as opposed to a trade or economic one.
None of this is to ignore to the massive cross-border considerations that will arise in terms of processing and day-to-day farming and dairying, or the huge ramifications for beef and pig sectors.
“But the ICMSA thinks that while Ireland must stand squarely with the EU, it’s very important to keep our eyes on a national interest as well and our chief national interests are (a) the lack of a physical border between our two jurisdictions and (b) the maintenance of our food trade with Britain that goes back centuries and on which we are still hugely reliant,” Comer stressed.