Reacting to today’s speech by UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Brexit, IFA President Joe Healy said he is extremely concerned by the direction the UK set out because it will make a hard border inevitable and would see the UK pursuing a cheap food policy in new trade deals with third countries that would damage Ireland’s farming and food sector.
Joe Healy said the UK has come up with no new proposals to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, “They are trying to rerun the ideas they put forward last August of a customs partnership or a highly streamlined customs arrangement. It is impossible to see either of these proposals working in the crucial farming and food sector, if the UK does not remain fully aligned with the rules of the single market and customs union. The UK cannot be allowed to walk away from its commitment in the Joint Report of last December to avoid a hard border.”
The IFA President said, “Theresa May’s statements around standards and fair competition are vague and dangerously misleading. By setting their own standards and cutting tariffs on food imports from third countries, the UK could seriously devalue the British market for Irish beef and dairy exports and in turn destabilise the European food market.
“What this means in practice is high quality Irish food exports produced to the highest EU standards being undermined on the British market by cheaper, inferior food products such as Brazilian beef, hormoned US beef or chlorinated chicken.”
Joe Healy said “It is clear that the agri-food sector is set to become a major battleground in the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU ad the UK. The Irish Government must now prioritise our requirement that the UK maintains full regulatory alignment with the EU’s standards and common external tariff in the area of agriculture and food.”
Joe Healy said full regulatory alignment in the agri-food sector would help to avoid a hard border in Ireland and deliver the closest possible trading relationship between Ireland, north and south, and Britain.