The official Brexit date is scheduled for March 29th 2019, exactly one year to this day. IFA president Joe Healy has warned rapid progress in the withdrawal-agreement negotiations is needed to avoid a disastrous no-deal scenario and UK cheap food policy.
“While the transition period agreed earlier this month gives some certainty," Joe said, "That will only apply if agreement is reached on all other matters by October and approved within the next 12 months. Otherwise, we reach a cliff-edge drop into the unknown that would be disastrous for all sides.”
In the discussions on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, the key area of trade is vital for Irish farmers, he continued.
“It is clear that the agri-food sector is set to become a major battleground in the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK. The Irish Government must prioritise our requirement that the UK maintains full regulatory alignment with the EU’s standards and common external tariff in the area of agriculture and food. Full regulatory alignment is necessary to avoid a hard border in Ireland and deliver the closest possible trading relationship between the EU and the UK, which is an outcome both sides have prioritised.
“The ideal solution is for the UK to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union. Short of this, we need an agreed framework whereby, the UK remains fully aligned to European standards and trade policy. Our objective must be no border on the island of Ireland and no border in the Irish Sea. Otherwise, farm incomes will be hit and thousands of jobs lost in rural Ireland.”
IFA president Joe Healy last week met with UK farm leaders to discuss shared concerns about the implications of Brexit on the Irish and UK agri-food sectors and to co-ordinate the approach of farm leaders to the negotiations.
He said it is clear that Irish and UK farmers are absolutely united in the desire to avoid a hard border and in their view that it would be devastating for farmers and very bad for consumers if the UK was to cut its standards and aim for a cheap food policy.
The meeting was attended by Minette Batters, NFU president; Barclay Bell, UFU president; John Davies, NFU Wales president; and, Andrew McCornick, NFU Scotland President.
Joe said there is a strong view among all the farm leaders that farming and food issues must be at to the top of the list in Brexit negotiations considerations.
He said that as well as maintaining the closest possible tariff-free trading relationship for agri-food with the UK, it is important that an agreement is reached that maintains the value of the UK market for Irish farmers. “Any outcome that allows the UK to set their own standards and cut tariffs on food imports from third countries would seriously devalue the British market for Irish agri-food exports and in turn destabilise the European food market.
“We need to avoid a scenario where the British market is open to cheaper, inferior food products such as Brazilian beef, hormoned US beef or chlorinated chicken that displace or undermine our high quality Irish food exports produced to the highest EU standards.”