The ICMSA President, John Comer said that the survey carried out by Behaviour & Attitude and carried in today’s Irish Examiner demonstrated the very real anxieties felt within farming about where this issue is going to go and the influence that Ireland – as opposed to the broader ‘Member States’ – can have. He said that ICMSA has repeatedly called for Ireland to state that the preservation of our centuries old, Euro multi-billion, food trade with the UK is a national strategic objective and its preservation on a continued tariff-free basis is, likewise, non-negotiable. Mr. Comer said that all parties have to understand that that is what Ireland has enjoyed – and earned – and that is what we intend keeping.
“That has to be – not the maximum we aim for – but the minimum we will accept. In fairness to the Irish Government we think that they have been resolute and decisive in setting out our position and making it clear to the other parties that it is not up to us to come forward with solutions to problems that we neither created nor wanted. We think that the UK likewise has signalled that its preference if for a continued of the present system of farm and food trade between Ireland, the North and the rest of the UK. The problem –and we cannot be complacent and pretend that it’s most unlikely to occur – is where another Member State or States decides that the way for them to secure, say, Freedom of Movement to the UK for their citizens is to, in a sense, ‘hold hostage’ our tariff-free farming and food trade with the UK and make our demands that that continue contingent on their securing concessions like the Freedom of Movement that would allow their citizens to reside and work in the UK. This places our food trade with the UK in with all the other issues under the old ‘nothing is agreed till everything is agreed’ rule whereas ICMSA and Irish farmers generally want the continuation of our food trade with the UK on its present basis to be the starting point, a ‘given’, accepted by all parties”
He said that farmer support for a specific Brexit Minister can be interpreted as a sign that farmers want this handled not as part of a portfolio like Foreign Affairs, but as a stand-alone issue that requires – and gets – a full ministerial focus. “We have too much at stake and generations of Irish farmers and agri-sector employees have worked too hard to have €4.5 billion worth of exports to our traditional British markets jeopardised by our not giving this issue the absolute focus it will require. None of this, it goes without saying, is to take a political line or imply a criticism of Minister Coveney who is regarded as having set out Ireland’s position in a categorical and unmistakable fashion – but perhaps an appointment of a Brexit Minister would send the kind of signal to the other parties as to the gravity with which we’re approaching this question”, stated the President of the State’s specialist dairy farmers’ organisation.
Ends 20 September 2017
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office