19October2019

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EU does not know what Ireland wants when it comes to Brexit – ASA Brexit Conference

 asa brexit conference1
ASA Brexit Conference

The urgent need for Ireland to decide on key priorities and coordinate its message to the EU in relation to Brexit was highlighted at a gathering of agri-food leaders in the Lyrath Hotel, Kilkenny last week. The forum, organized by the Agricultural Science Association, heard that the negotiation of any bilateral trade agreements is highly unlikely and that the current scattergun approach from trade organizations, lobby groups and Government will not work in stabilizing the Irish economy in the wake of Brexit.

The event featured a panel discussion with contributions from John Moloney, Chair, Food Wise 2025, Lucinda Creighton from EU Advisory Company Vulcan Consulting, Jim Power, Economist and Joe Healy, IFA President. The panel was agreed that as a result of Brexit, Ireland is currently in unchartered waters and that the agri-food sector was by far the most exposed sector.

Lucinda Creighton highlighted that Brexit is further complicated by an increasingly turbulent EU political environment with upcoming elections in France and Germany and that Ireland lacked a coordinated message to the EU “The feedback I get from Europe is that Ireland is more active than any other country, that we have lobby groups going over from all sectors but they are getting different messages from everybody and they don’t know what Ireland wants and what our end game is. It is still totally unclear as to what we as a country are proposing and this needs to be defined and communicated as a matter of urgency.”

Economist Jim Power strongly agreed with Lucinda Creighton that any talk of a bilateral trade agreement would not be entertained by the EU, describing such a concept as “fantasy”. In addition, a need for some form of “transitional funding” for Irish agri-food businesses was discussed as a measure which could potentially be sanctioned by the EU in recognition of Ireland’s unique position in the wake of Brexit.

The ambitious targets set out under Food Wise 2025 were questioned and the panel agreed that they were still achievable in principal, but that the industry must look at new ways of getting there. John Moloney, Chair of Food Wise 2025 said “The fact is that all the capacity and capability outlined in Food Wise 2025 still exists but the issue is what markets we are going to focus on. It is important that Government, who endorsed Food Wise 2025, immediately and urgently re-prioritise its implementation plan in order to support businesses in targeting new markets.”

It was highlighted that the key period for negotiation will be March 29th – April 29th and that Ireland needs to urgently communicate a number of clear solutions including measures for dealing with the Northern Ireland border issue, ways of continuing to trade with Britain and the provision of funding.

Specific recommendations included:

  • Setting up of a Government advisory group on Brexit
  • Further investment in state agencies such as Bord Bia and IDA
  • Identifying new ways of accessing the British market
  • Encouraging primary producers not to over-invest in fixed assets and to identify more effective knowledge transfer opportunities
  • The need to plan for the worst case scenario on the basis that no special deals will be made with Ireland

The event was organized by the Agricultural Science Association and sponsored by Bank of Ireland.

John Fitzgerald, Head of Agriculture, Bank of Ireland Business Banking said, "As the largest lender into the Irish economy in 2016, Bank of Ireland has significant business interests with the Farming and Agri Business communities. We fully understand that Brexit could present significant challenges for Irish Agriculture and we were delighted to have the opportunity to partner with the Agricultural Science Association today in sponsoring this important event. The contributions from the panelists have given us plenty of food for thought, and will certainly help inform some of the strategic decisions we need to make in a Pre and Post-Brexit Ireland."

Source: HortiTrends News Room