"The result of the UK EU referendum has the potential to give rise to significant challenges for the Irish agri-food sector, and I am keenly aware of the concerns of those working in the sector about the UK exit decision.
The UK is by far our largest trading partner in the agri-food sector. Ireland is also the UK’s largest destination for its food exports. Given these linkages, and as the UK is a net food importer, both countries have a strong interest in maintaining a close agri-food trading relationship. Safeguarding the interests of the Irish agri-food sector will be central in informing the Government’s overall approach to all negotiations pertaining to the UK’s exit from the EU.
My Department and our agencies, in association with our stakeholders, have been giving careful consideration to the potential impacts of a UK exit, looking at the areas in which the greatest risks are likely to arise and on which we will need to focus when negotiations begin. However, it is important to bear in mind that the EU Treaty provides a 2 year period for negotiation of exit arrangements. Within that two-year period existing arrangements will continue to apply.
"The UK exit vote raises complex issues for the fisheries sector"
While I do not underestimate the scale of the task ahead of us, I am confident that my Department and our agencies are well prepared to address the challenges presented. The resilience of the Irish agri-food sector is well recognised and this together with the strong commercial relationships built up over years of trading will help us to negotiate our way though the challenges ahead.
The main areas in which potential impacts are foreseen are in relation currency fluctuations, tariffs and trade, the EU budget, regulations and standards, and customs controls and certification. The UK exit vote also raises complex issues for the fisheries sector. Of course, the most immediate concerns for agri-food exporters centre on exchange rates.
As part of our overall contingency planning, I have established a dedicated unit in my Department to work on these issues and I will convene a consultative committee of stakeholders to ensure a full exchange of information as the negotiations proceed. I have also asked Bord Bia to provide practical guidance to SMEs to assist them in dealing with marketing challenges arising in the short term.
It is important to note that Ireland is and will remain a committed member of the European Union.
I, my Department and its agencies will be giving these issues the very highest priority in the period ahead”.