On the day that the UK formally triggers Article 50 and starts the clock on a two-year countdown to its departure from the EU, the President of ICMSA has said that Ireland cannot rely on mere expressions of concern and goodwill as what will be historically difficult and intense negotiations begin. John Comer said that such was the extent of Ireland’s exposure to a ‘Hard’ Brexit that we could not afford to adopt and wait-and-see attitude that permitted the EU and the UK Government to begin talks and then present a series of interim results before unveiling a final package. Ireland is the most affected Member State and our 130,000 farm families and the wider agri-food sector that depends on them is the most affected sector, he noted.
“If there was ever an issue and occasion when we must look to our own national interests then this is it: We have to take responsibility for our interests”.
Mr. Comer said the challenges flowing from the UK’s June 23 Referendum were numerous but he identified currency volatility, CAP funding, the maintenance of the Single Market, input costs and overall cost competitiveness as the most pressing while all-Ireland health status, landholdings on both sides of the border, and transit across the UK, were all likely to involve difficult and protracted talks and agreements that must not involve what he called the “usual, casual, loading of costs and regulation onto farmers”.
He said that the Government’s dismissal of any bilateral strand to the issue was legally correct but any agreements – whether interim or final – must recognise Ireland’s unique position. “It’s impossible to overstate how crucial it is that Ireland is aware of, and party to, the shape of these talks from the ‘get-go’. We don’t doubt the bona fides of the Commission but with reference to very recent history, Ireland will have to be categorical that our centuries-old, multi-billion Euro food trade with the UK is not endangered by other interests. Ireland, proportionately, has most at stake and we’re entitled to assurances – up front and categorical – that our interests will count just as much as other, larger, States”, he concluded.
Ends 29 March 2017
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office