€1bn Brexit damage to agri-food exports, warns economist
Farm organisations called for a soft Brexit without tariffs on exports to the UK at an Oireachtas agriculture committee hearing this Tuesday, but economist Jim Power said this was unlikely.
A hard border, export tariffs, a price race to the bottom in the UK market and untold damage to Ireland’s agriculture and food industry: this is the doomsday scenario outlined by economist and Love Irish Food chair Jim Power.
He warned that the prospect of a so-called soft Brexit was unlikely, with the concessions implied on free movement unpalatable to British voters and other EU countries intent on making exit negotiations as difficult as possible for the UK to set a precedent.
“We should operate on the basis that Brexit will happen, and that it will be a hard Brexit,” Power said. Anything less drastic “will be a bonus”.
The agreement of a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and the UK, with favourable access for agricultural products and mutual recognition of standards, must be a priority at EU level
This was in contrast to the views of the farm representatives also speaking before the joint Oireachtas committee on agriculture. IFA president Joe Healy (pictured) said his organisation’s “first position is that the UK would remain a full member of the EU’s single market”. “If this proves unworkable, the IFA is clear that the agreement of a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and the UK, with favourable access for agricultural products and mutual recognition of standards, must be a priority at EU level,” he added.
Macra na Feirme president Seán Finan said that Ireland should strike a bilateral agreement with the UK to ensure no tariffs on agri-food trade in parallel to negotiations between the UK and the wider EU. Referring to the crises experienced in the lifetime of Macra members, such as foot-and-mouth disease and BSE outbreaks, he added: “This is a bigger crisis than all those put together.”