Creed moves to reassure farmers after Brexit vote

Farmer leaders call for support in wake of British decision to leave European Union

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association President Patrick Kent said the Government can play a vital role as a broker between the EU and the UK to help ensure that the single market continues to include the UK, given the huge and unique dependence of Ireland on exports to the UK. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association President Patrick Kent said the Government can play a vital role as a broker between the EU and the UK to help ensure that the single market continues to include the UK, given the huge and unique dependence of Ireland on exports to the UK. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed has warned the Brexit referendum result has “the potential to give rise to significant challenge for the Irish agri-food sector”.

Mr Creed said he was keenly aware of the concerns of farmers and those working in the Irish agri-sector about the implications of the British decision to leave.

“The UK is by far our largest trading partner in the agri-food sector. Ireland is also the UK’s largest destination for its food exports. Given these linkages, and as the UK is a net food importer, both countries have a strong interest in maintaining a close agri-food trading relationship.

“My department and our agencies, in association with our stakeholders, have been giving careful consideration to the potential impacts of a UK exit, looking at the areas in which the greatest risks are likely to arise and on which we will need to focus when negotiations begin.”

Mr Creed said it was important to note the EU provides a two year period for negotiating exit arrangements and existing arrangements will continue to apply within that time frame.

Adding that he accepted there were huge concerns about currency fluctuations in the wake of the Brexit vote, Mr Creed said: “The main areas in which potential impacts are foreseen are in relation currency fluctuations, tariffs and trade, the EU budget, regulations and standards, and customs controls and certification ... of course the most immediate concerns for agri-food exporters centre on exchange rates.”

Mr Creed said the UK exit vote also raises “complex issues” for the Irish fisheries sector and while he didn’t underestimate the scale of the task ahead, he was confident the Department of Agriculture and other agencies were prepared to meet the challenge.

“The resilience of the Irish agri-food sector is well recognised and this together with the strong commercial relationships built up over years of trading will help us to negotiate our way though the challenges ahead,” he said.

IFA President Joe Healy had earlier called on the government to take steps to allay uncertainty in the wake of the Brexit vote. “It’s a case of damage limitation. We need calm,” he told RTE’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

Mr Healy said he was concerned about the impact of Brexit on the value of sterling and the impact that currency fluctuation would have in Irish exports. “We need people who are marketing our produce not to drop prices. They need to be responsible.”

Mr Healy also said that the referendum outcome was a blow to agriculture in the UK. “I would be surprised if the CAP figures will be matched by the UK government. It will be difficult for them to make up that €350million for farmers in Northern Ireland. ”

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association President Patrick Kent said the Government can play a vital role as a broker between the EU and the UK to help ensure that the single market continues to include the UK, given the huge and unique dependence of Ireland on exports to the UK.

“Our Government needs to take a strong line with the EU Commission on the need to ensure this decision does not create chaos for Irish agriculture. CAP supports are going to be more vital than ever and increasing the CAP budget needs to be considered, regardless of the loss of the UK net contribution. “

Meanwhile Martin Keane, President of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society, expressed disappointment at the UK vote and he again called for some mechanism to provide currency stability and security for Irish agri-food exporters to the UK.

“We are now facing two challenges; we must deal with the immediate uncertainty in currency and other markets, and we must then apply ourselves to securing the most positive post Brexit arrangements possible.”

“We need central banks to bring some stability to currency markets, and we all need to work with the Government and other authorities during the transition period, which will last a number of years,” said Mr Keane who warned against panic or over reaction to the UK vote.