Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy has met with Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan, to discuss the threats posed by Brexit to Irish agriculture.
During the meeting, the IFA president discussed IFA’s Brexit policy priorities, as spelled out in the recently launched policy document Brexit: The Imperatives for Irish Farmers and the Agri-food Sector, with the Minister.
Healy said: “Ireland is the most exposed EU member state in Brexit negotiations, and with 40% of our agri-food exports going to the UK each year, agriculture is the most exposed Irish sector. The government’s position on Brexit must reflect the unique difficulties Irish agriculture faces and use all political capital to ensure a strong negotiating stance by European political leaders to achieve the best outcome for farming.”
IFA has been clear that, if the UK exits the Customs Union, there must be a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and UK, which would include the following specific elements for agriculture and food:
• Tariff-free trade for agricultural products and food;
• Maintenance of equivalent standards on food safety, animal health, welfare and the environment; and
• Application of the Common External Tariff for imports to both the EU and the UK.
The land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was also discussed as it creates an “additional serious challenge for Irish agriculture”.
Healy said: “The level of trade and co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic is very significant, with geographical proximity creating a highly integrated and established trade flow of both finished products and products requiring further processing.
“Any hard border situation that would damage the free flow of agricultural products, or increase the costs involved, would be devastating for farmers on both sides of the border and must be avoided.”