IFA President Joe Healy and director general Damian McDonald meet the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, ahead of the EU Heads of State Summit in Brussels last Saturday
IFA President Joe Healy met Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Brussels last Saturday ahead of the EU heads of state summit of agreeing guidelines for the Brexit negotiations.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was also present at the EPP meeting which was held on the side of the heads of state talks.
Mr Healy said the Taoiseach was very aware of the importance of agricultural trade issues for Ireland.
“There is a real sense of history here in Brussels. In many ways it is a sad day for the EU but we need to maintain the closest possible trading relationship with the UK and a fully funded CAP,” Mr Healy said.
Meanwhile, IFA and representatives from the agri-food industry met Mr Kenny last week to put forward the key issues for the sector arising from Brexit ahead of the EU summit.
Representatives from Food Drink Ireland, Meat Industry Ireland and the Irish Dairy Industry Association joined Mr Healy in making a strong case for the measures needed by the sector.
“Brexit has the potential to have a devastating impact on farming and food. It’s our largest indigenous sector and the UK is our most important market. Our message to the Taoiseach was clear: the sector’s issues have to be at the forefront of what is agreed by the EU leaders next weekend,” said Mr Healy
Philip Carroll, chairman of MII said that “the food industry delegation highlighted the critical importance of business certainty through the negotiation process to a new trading relationship with the UK and therefore the absolute need for a transition period. He also outlined the need for the Government to act immediately on a series of short term measures to ensure that Irish food exports maintain their market share in the UK while negotiations are ongoing.”
The delegation identified the key priorities for the sector in relation to the EU negotiating mandate for the Brexit negotiations.
These were: in order to minimise economic uncertainty and the potential for major economic damage for exposed sectors, discussions on the future EU-UK relationship must be commenced early in the negotiating process; both sides must commit to negotiate an ambitious and balanced agreement that prioritises continued tariff and barrier free trade, long-term growth, investment and stability; any agreement should take account of the special case of the island of Ireland, ensuring that the highly integrated supply chains can continue to operate with free movement of goods and services; in acceding to a FTA with the UK, the EU must ensure that the value of the UK market is not undermined through lower cost imports, which do not meet the standards required of the EU agri-food sector.
The delegation put forward a number of short and medium term measures to support the agri-food sector, including, the relaxation of state aids restrictions at both farming and industry level that impact on the ability of Ireland to address critical stabilisation support measures and strategic transformative initiative; direct support for farmers through CAP Market Support or other measures to be made available in the event of further Sterling depreciation during exit negotiations; €25 million in funding for market diversification and product innovation measures, administered by Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland; substantial increase in resourcing of the international market access unit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The group also emphasised that EU solidarity with farmers required that there must be no reduction in the CAP budget arising from the UK exit.
They also demanded that Structural and adjustment funding must be provided by the EU, if required, to the farming and food sectors that are disadvantaged due to changes in the relationship post Brexit between the EU and UK.