Irish Farmers’ Association warns of Brexit impact

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

Irish Farmers’ Association warns of Brexit impact

Related tags European union Ireland Eu Livestock

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has warned the findings of a report published by Business, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Heather Humphreys, examining the impact of Brexit on Ireland’s trade and economy, are “very stark” for farming and food in Ireland.

The impact study was compiled by Copenhagen Economics and commissioned by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

It examined the best- and worst-case scenarios regarding the impact of Brexit on the Irish economy. The study proposes that an EEA scenario would be least damaging, gradually reducing GDP growth by 2.8% by 2030, while a World Trade Organization scenario would have the most impact, gradually reducing GDP growth by 7% by 2030.

The Irish agri-food industry is one of five key sectors that would experience 90% of the impact.

Joe Healy, IFA president, said, "We are not surprised to see that our sector faces such a catastrophic outcome in the event of a hard Brexit. The severe impact across the board is something IFA has raised at all political levels since before the referendum.”

Healy said this warning should serve to refocus government efforts towards securing an outcome that avoids this bleak scenario for our largest indigenous sector.

He said the retention of free trade in agriculture and food products between the EU and UK must be a priority.

When releasing the study, Humphreys said: “The government is already taking steps to ensure that the impact of Brexit is minimised. The study is there to guide us and help us to prevent the worst from happening. We commissioned it so that we can quantify the potential impacts of different Brexit scenarios, and get hard facts on what sectors will be most impacted by those different scenarios. The information will help to inform our negotiating position, together with our ongoing domestic response to Brexit, which has been evolving since the UK vote and will continue to evolve in the times ahead.

“Without a doubt, the study underlines the importance of a satisfactory transition period and exit deal. The government is utterly determined to get the best possible deal for the Irish people, negotiating as part of the EU 27, and in full support of chief negotiator Michel Barnier.”

Healy added that questions regarding trade between Ireland and the UK needed to be answered. “Understandably, there has been much focus on ensuring there is no hard border in Ireland. The December 2017 commitment in relation to Regulatory Alignment with the Single Market and Customs Union is significant in avoiding such a scenario. However, for the Irish agri-food sector, the focus needs to be on the relationship between the EU and the entirety of the UK.

“North-south regulatory alignment will help to solve one problem – no hard border in Ireland. East-west regulatory alignment has the potential to deliver a lot more – to avoid major disruption for Irish food exporters to our largest market, Britain.

He also warned that, post-Brexit, “we cannot have a scenario where the UK government can do as they please”​ as regards agricultural trade with third countries. “If the UK wants continued access to the EU market, the EU must insist that the UK will not be free to open their markets to low-standard or low-value products from outside the EU.”

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