Ministers ‘keen to secure’ best post-Brexit Irish agriculture deal

Essential for cross-Border agriculture that no ‘hard border’ formed, says Michael Creed

In the wake of the Brexit vote, farming interests in Northern Ireland are anxious to work with the Republic to secure the best deal for exports, according to Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

Mr Creed said he met twice with his Northern counterpart, Michelle McIlveen of the DUP, since the referendum and she is keen to work with the Government to secure the best deal for Irish agriculture.

"I met Minister McIlveen twice and there's a growing recognition in Northern Ireland, post Brexit vote, that there are very complex issues and very significant challenges for us both - we had done a lot of work in the department prior to the vote and they are very anxious to work with us," he said.

Mr Creed said the most immediate issue facing Irish agriculture was currency fluctuations, with a drop in the value of sterling post-Brexit impacting on Irish exports to the UK, which accounts for over 40 per cent of food exports. His officials were continuing to monitor the issue closely, he said.


“As I have said in the department and in the Government, there really is no upside to Brexit for Ireland - the immediate things that are coming into focus is sterling but even where we were last week - we’ve been in that space for five of the last ten years so there is nothing new in that that level of volatility,” he said.

"But if the value of sterling continued to worsen, we would have to consider whether we would want specific policy instruments to tackle that - that's an issue for my department in consultation with the Taoiseach's department and the whole of Government and the Central Bank. "

Mr Creed said Department of Agriculture officials are liaising closely with the various agencies such as enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and Bord Iascaigh Mhara to make contact with their client companies to see if the currency fluctuations are having impact on their exports to the UK.

Hasty decisions

“One of the interesting feedbacks coming from the UK talking to the purchasers there is that they are very anxious into reassure our food industry here that while price is important, quality of our produce is recognised and they won’t be making any hasty decisions in that regard,” he said.

He is conscious that certain sectors are “particularly exposed, for example the mushroom industry, with 70 growers and a couple of thousand employees in that space. He said his department would “work through the crisis with these individual companies”.

Looking longer term and at the type of relationship the UK will have with the EU, Mr Creed said it was imperative that there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, given the complex trans-border nature of agriculture.

“The border is a particular difficulty for us - there is so much traffic over and across the border - 350,000 sheep come south for slaughtering every year, there’s about 10,000 pigs a week go north for slaughter and in 2015, 50,000 -plus cattle went over the Border,” he said.

"But probably the most complex of all, is we (the Republic) process milk from Northern Ireland in Leckpatrick and Lakeland Dairies in Co Monaghan and that raises questions for us... as I said, when you mix milk from the Queen's cows with Paddy's cows - what do you get - Irish butter, Irish milk?

“And that’s an issue because labelling is part of what we do and if that land border is part of the border between the EU and the UK, are you going to be paying tariffs if it comes south?” he said, adding “there are very complex issues to be resolved, ones that we are scoping out, working with the agencies.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times