Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Implications of Brexit for Agriculture Sector: Discussion
As Senator Lombard remarked, there seems to be some good news but it only a text. We have not seen it yet but as events have evolved, we all know the problem probably will be one of getting it through on the British side. There has been total disarray in the negotiations at the top level. Has this been portrayed down through the channels to the small and medium-sized enterprises and export companies? Ireland has at least had a discussion around preparedness. Every company many not have acted on the advice it was given but we have had the conversation. Have they even done this? Are there many companies on which Irish companies depend, for raw materials or products, for instance, which are in denial? If whatever has been agreed today is not accepted on the UK side and there is a hard Brexit, are there Irish companies that will find themselves in a precarious position but which are not aware of that, because some of their inputs come from or through the UK?
Are the witnesses aware of contingency plans on the Continent, in companies that export to Ireland but which use the landbridge? Have we explored or are we looking at potential positives from this process? While the negatives far outweigh any positive developments, even with tariffs are there products where we might prove more competitive than a fellow EU country which not only has the tariff but also must transport goods further to the UK than we do? For instance, there might be someone transporting goods from the bottom of Italy to the UK. Might we possibly have a new market in that scenario, where we would become competitive once transport costs and tariffs are considered?
It is right to plan and we must plan for the worst and hope for the best. We have mostly discussed agriculture and agrifood here. On 1 April 2019, even if it is a cliff-edge Brexit, the people in the UK will still need to eat and will still need food. How will this problem be overcome on their side? Will we, by default, find ourselves in a humanitarian effort to stop them from going hungry?