The publication of the EU’s Draft Guidelines responding to the UK’s ‘triggering’ of Article 50 has been described as encouraging and positive by the President of ICMSA, John Comer. He said that it certainly appeared as if cognisance had been taken of several points raised by Ireland with respect to our unique relationship with the UK and there also appeared to be recognition of certain issues pertaining to free trade agreements concluded previous to the UK invoking Article 50 and that state’s responsibility for taking some of the quotas agreed at that stage. Mr. Comer said that the widespread anxiety felt by farmers and the wider agri-food sector was particularly allayed by Point 11 made under the heading ‘Agreement on Arrangements For An Orderly Withdrawal’ which specifies that “…flexible and imaginative solutions will be required…with the aim of avoiding a hard border….In this context, the union should also recognise existing bilateral agreements and arrangements between the United Kingdom and Ireland which are compatible with EU law”.
Mr. Comer noted that this was a specific undertaking and meant that Ireland now had some reference by which to measure the progress reports coming from the EU’s negotiating team.
He also pointed to Point 13 which he felt almost certainly had been drafted with reference to trade agreements covering food imports into the EU such as Canadian beef. “ICMSA has been watching this carefully where trade agreements were concluded with particularly Commonwealth countries like New Zealand and Canada with the active encouragement of the UK. These EU Guidelines have picked up on exactly this point so we see that in Number 13, the EU stating that “The European Council expects the United Kingdom to honour its share of international commitments contracted in the context of its EU membership. On the possibility of moving smoothly to a post-Brexit free trade agreement with the UK, Mr. Comer said that the Guidelines appeared positive and encouraging in this respect also: “We especially welcome the positive sentiments around the possibility of moving relatively quickly towards a free trade agreement with the UK, albeit one that will stop short of the level of access and terms applicable to Membership of the single market. Irish farming and agri-food have to retain the access with our UK market that is commensurate with the extent and importance of our centuries old trade and we have to acknowledge that this is a signal that the remaining 27 will want a continuing trade with the UK that is as free as can be imagined short of Membership. This process has literally only just begun and we’re aware of the challenges that lie ahead but we have to acknowledge that this is a reasonable starting point that has to conclude with the preservation of our massively important food trade with the UK on as close to present terms as can be achieved.
Ends 31 March 2017.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office