ICSA president Patrick Kent has told the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Andrea Leadsom that the fortunes of UK and Irish farmers are intrinsically linked.
Speaking following the meeting in the House of Commons this Tuesday, Mr Kent said: “The agriculture ties between our two countries are so deeply rooted it is blatantly clear that those links need to be recognised as vital and protected as such.”
He said that this was acknowledged by Ms Leadsom.
There needs to be trade talks running parallel with the Brexit negotiations. It is simply too late to start negotiating a trade deal between the UK and Europe only after Brexit negotiations have concluded, siad Mr Kent.
“It is crucial to keep Irish farming interests front and centre at all stages of Brexit negotiations, both from an EU and a UK perspective. ICSA is making the case in Brussels and we have had the opportunity to make that case directly to Westminster. Ms Leadsom urged ICSA to keep pressure on the EU so that the unique links between our two countries can be preserved,” he said.
The ICSA president said that Ireland and the UK needed to continue to trade with each other with minimum disruption, with no tariffs and through maintaining the equivalent standards that have been commonly developed over many years.
“There is a commonality of interests between our two nations and this was stressed to both Secretary Leadsom and Minister of State George Eustice,” he said.
Ireland exports 50 per cent of the beef we produce to the UK. This is quality, grass fed beef produced to the same exacting standards as UK farmers. In 2016 this trade was worth €1.2bn.
“We want to continue to supply British consumers, but with tariffs the economics don’t work for our farmers and don’t work for UK consumers,” said Mr Kent.
He pointed out that farmers had already taken a hit as a result of Brexit that cannot be sustained and needed to be reversed.
“Farmers are at a crossroads regarding farm decisions. At current levels it is just not sustainable at farm gate level. We have to cut production until we have a clearer view of what trade deal will be done between the UK and EU. I cannot emphasise enough the power of large multiples have over controlling price,” he said.
Mr Kent also raised concerns with Ms Leadsom about the risk of the UK market being flooded with New Zealand lamb or South American and Canadian beef and sought assurances that this would be limited
In addition, Mr Kent drew attention the need for the live export trade to the UK and Northern Ireland to be developed.
This was the first meeting between the UK Secretary and any Irish farm organisation and Mr Kent said: “ICSA will continue to keep the interests of beef and sheep farmers centre stage in the Brexit talks.”