The decision of the UK to leave the European Union will have serious implications for all sectors of the Irish economy including the Agri-Food sector and the Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine along with his relevant Cabinet colleagues needs to put a clear plan in place to address the many issues that are likely to arise when the Brexit is finally negotiated with the EU, according to Mr. John Comer, President of ICMSA, the state’s specialist dairy farmers’ organisation.
Having met with the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine last week, Mr. Comer said that ICMSA is satisfied that the Department has identified all the issues from farm to processor to trading level that are likely to arise from a Brexit. “In the context of €5 billion in food exports to the UK – €1.1 billion is beef and €1 billion is dairy produce – we need clear and agreed plans. It is important to emphasise that it will be at least two years before any of these issues become a reality, including any possible implications for farmer payments. But we need to be planning at this stage to ensure a smooth transition and, to this end, ICMSA believes that the Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine should establish a co-ordinating group of Department officials and industry stakeholders so that clear plans and strategies are identified and agreed at an early stage”, said Mr Comer.
In the short term, the implications are likely to focus on exchange rate movements and the ICMSA President said that both the Irish Government and the EU must understand that farmers cannot be expected to pay for any negative currency movements arising from the vote. Mr. Comer said that there is a Farm Council meeting next Monday and plans need to put in place to protect farmers. “The reality is that, in the past, food processors have simply passed back the impact of negative exchange rate movements and we now need to see our Farm Council take measures to protect farmers rather than food processors who have well insulated themselves in the past. Farmers are already in a prolonged income crisis and cannot be expected to take additional punishment”.
.“Brexit will have practical implications at farm level, particularly for farmers in border regions, for processors in terms of trade to the UK and also transit of products to continental Europe. It is essential that as Brexit negotiations begin and develop that access to the UK market is retained on the basis of current conditions and that Ireland’s dependence on the UK market is recognised and addressed. Irish farmers have a long history of trading with the UK and I have no doubt that this will continue into the future provided the UK and EU regulators maintain the proper trading environment for it to continue”, concluded Mr. Comer.
Ends 24 June 2016
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office