Commenting on the draft guidelines on Brexit negotiations, issued today by the European Council, IFA President Joe Healy said EU recognition of the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, and the stated aim of avoiding a hard border, are very welcome, and a resolution to trade issues must be central in this.
He said it is critical to avoid disruption to trade in the farming and food sector, which would seriously damage farmers’ livelihoods and agri-food businesses, not only in border counties, but across the island of Ireland.
“The best way to avoid disruption to trade is for the UK to remain in the Customs Union. If this is not possible, the EU and UK must negotiate a comprehensive free-trade agreement, which would maintain tariff-free trade for agricultural products and food and ensure equivalent standards in the areas of food safety, animal health and welfare. These must be priority issues in the discussions on the border.”
Joe Healy was speaking from Newcastle, Co. Down where he is attending a meeting of UK farm leaders hosted by the Ulster Farmers’ Union to discuss the implications of Brexit and to co-ordinate the approach of farm leaders to the negotiations. At the meeting, Joe Healy set out to the UK farm leaders the key priorities for farming and food in the IFA policy paper Brexit: The Imperatives for Irish Farmers & the Agri-Food Sector.
The IFA President noted that the Council guidelines recognise the need to minimise uncertainty and disruption arising from the UK departure and raised the possibility of transitional arrangements.
He said, “It may well not be possible to negotiate a free-trade agreement in two years, therefore it is essential that early agreement is reached in the negotiations on transitional arrangements that preserve the existing trading relationship with the UK and avoid any disruption to trade in March 2019.”
Joe Healy said, “There is a strong view among all farm leaders of the importance of placing our issues at the top of the agenda. We will be working closely as the Brexit negotiations evolve to insist that our political leaders have farming and food at the heart of the discussions”.
The UFU meeting today was attended by UFU President Barclay Bell, NFU President Meurig Raymond, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick and NFU Wales President Stephen James.
IFA Brexit Event
IFA will hold a major Brexit event on Monday, 24th April, ahead of the crucial EU Summit on Saturday, 29th April, at which EU leaders will discuss their negotiating position.
EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed, IFA representatives and industry leaders will speak at the event in Goffs, Co Kildare which will be attended by more than 600 farmers.