One-third of Irish farms at risk in no-deal Brexit, says study

Warning comes as Northern Secretary holds talks aimed at restarting Stormont assembly

Up to one-third of Irish farms could be forced out of business in the event of no-deal Brexit, a Central Bank study has warned.

The analysis suggests that beef and sheep farms, which represent about 70 per cent of farms, already face "significant viability challenges" as they are the least profitable and rely heavily on subsidies from Brussels.

It said about one-third of all Irish farms were classified as economically vulnerable, meaning that incomes were insufficient to support the families involved and needed to be bolstered by off-farm earnings.

These businesses would struggle to survive a no-deal Brexit, which could see World Trade Organisation tariffs being levied on exports from the Republic to the UK, it said. In the case of beef, these tariffs could amount to 50 per cent of the current export price, making Irish beef extremely uncompetitive in its main export market.


“Any future negative shock – even one less material than Brexit – would further expose the underlying weaknesses in the sector,” the report said.

The agri-food sector generated more than €13 billion in exports in 2018, about 10 per cent of Ireland’s overall merchandise exports, and has long been seen as the most vulnerable to Brexit.

Specific elements

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith has said a revived Stormont assembly could have a role in any new Brexit deal which had specific Northern Ireland elements.

He was speaking in Dublin during his first visit since his appointment by British prime minister Boris Johnson in July.

Mr Smith held talks with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and Opposition leaders to discuss efforts to re-establish the powersharing institutions at Stormont, an issue which has acquired new urgency as talk of a revival of a Northern Ireland-only backstop proliferates.

Separately, the Cabinet will today consider proposals to provide some health and socialcare benefits to residents in Northern Ireland and British citizens moving to Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone will bring a joint memo to Cabinet.

Mr Harris will propose new legislation to ensure Northern Ireland residents retain access to health benefits equivalent to those currently available with the European Health Insurance Card.

An amendment to the Childcare Support Act 2018 is being brought forward by Ms Zappone to ensure British residents who move to Ireland will not be at a disadvantage when it comes to accessing the National Childcare Scheme, which is a statutory entitlement to financial support for childcare.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent