Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has warned of unpreparedness by both authorities and legislators to deal with consequences of Brexit for the agri-food sector.
Speaking in a special debate in the European Parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Carthy said:
“The three reports presented in the EP Agriculture Committee expose not only just how badly Ireland’s largest indigenous sector stands to lose from Brexit, but also just how unprepared authorities are to cope with the changing landscape.
“I’m glad that fellow MEPs now have the facts that Irish farmers will be particularly vulnerable not just because of reliance on British markets, consumer tastes and processing routes, but also because of the fact that two thirds of Irish Exports to the continent move via Britain.
“When Britain leaves there is the possibility that Irish hauliers will be stopped four times for customs clearance, something Professor Matthew’s report says the authorities are completely unprepared for.
“But it’s not just the authorities who are unprepared for the consequences of Brexit, it’s policy makers.
“It’s true that there is little the Agriculture & Rural Development Committee can do so long as the Tory Government refuse to engage with reality on this matter. But I would like to see discussions developing on the issues we do have control over, such as a crisis reserve fund for farmers disproportionately affected by Brexit and easier triggering of mechanisms already in place. Aswell as funds to help farmers plan for the future in terms of trade diversion and working with new customs and inspections rules.
On the issue of the need for solidarity from other remaining Member States, Carthy stated:
“Many MEPs have discussed the need for solidarity to deal with Brexit. The reports make for grim reading for Ireland, where it is acknowledged the brunt of the economic shocks will be felt.
“The -3.4% drop in GDP and cutting off of 800l of milk, 400,000 lambs and 400,000 pigs at the border every year are figures we have been discussing at a national level for some time now.
“Real solidarity in this situation would mean committing to protecting the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and protecting Island of Ireland harmonisation that has developed over the last 20 years.
“If MEPs are real about protecting the economy then ensuring special status for farmers in the North is one driver of that”.