Representatives from Food Drink Ireland (FDI) and Meat Industry Ireland (MII) will today appear before the Seanad Select Committee on the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU, where they will set out the key issues and measures needed for the sector both at an EU and domestic level. In particular they will stress the need to maintain tariff-free access to the UK market post-Brexit and for an EU state aid framework to support vulnerable businesses through the transition.
FDI Director Paul Kelly said: "The agri-food sector exports €4.1 billion of food and drink to the UK and accounts for 43,000 Irish jobs. With 40% of total food and drink exports going to the UK, Ireland is four to six times more exposed than any other European country to Brexit. Supply chains in the food sector are deeply integrated between our two countries. The continued, uninterrupted flow of these supply chains is essential to the competitiveness of food and drink businesses on both islands.
"It is vital that Brexit negotiations deliver the closest possible economic and trading relationship between the EU and the UK into the future. Agri-food is the Irish sector most exposed to trade disruption, and the Irish Government must do all within its control to ensure minimum impact to the free flow of goods."
Discussions on the future EU-UK relationship must begin early in the negotiating process and must deliver a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between the EU and UK, ideally with the UK remaining within the EU Customs Union. Transitional arrangements, of sufficient length for businesses to plan and prepare for any new free trade agreement, are vital. Customs procedures should be dealt with as part of the first phase of Article 50 negotiations."
The delegation put forward a number of short and medium term measures needed to support the agri-food sector, including:
- The relaxation of state aid restrictions that impact on the ability of Ireland to apply critical stabilisation support measures and strategic transformative initiatives in light of the potentially serious economic disturbance of Brexit.
- An intense and ongoing focus on cost competitiveness, led by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, in areas such as labour, energy and insurance.
- The re-introduction of the Employment Subsidy Scheme and the Enterprise Stabilisation measures, which were last applied during the financial crisis in 2009-2011.
- €25 million in funding for market diversification and product innovation measures, administered by Bord Bia and Enterprise Ireland.
- Trade support measures, including export trade financing and export credit guarantees to support the continued development of international export markets.
- A substantial increase in resourcing of the international market access unit of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
- An access to finance package that includes sustainable financing via funding from the Irish Strategic Investment Fund and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.