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
I thank the witnesses for their presentations which have been very useful. I also wonder about the landbridge going across Britain to continental Europe, across which much of our products travel. Has an arrangement or model been put in place whereby produce that is leaving Ireland to go to Europe or vice versawill not have to go through checks, for instance if they are in sealed containers with codes that cannot be broken, but can go straight through and do so quickly?
A large amount of produce that goes to the Netherlands of Belgium goes on to other markets across the world. Will there be a situation whereby products coming from Ireland will not have to undergo any checks but can fly through regardless? Have there been negotiations on this?
As my colleague noted, people in Britain will have to eat. There will be many other products they have previously imported from Ireland and which heretofore they have not been getting from elsewhere. This committee has heard from Bord Bia and from Ministers who have been on trade missions all over the world. On foot of our efforts to export to other countries and do deals with them, we know it takes considerable time and is not something that happens in an instant. Do we have information on what Britain is doing in this area? Is the British Government actively trying to do these deals? Have they done many or any of them? Have they even started? Does that leave us in a position where there are products they are currently getting from Ireland that they will no longer require from us, regardless of whatever deal or no-deal takes place? Either way, we will have to move on with it.
On the proposed Brexit mitigation fund and a relaxation of state aid rules, most of us would concur that we need something like this to happen. It has been acknowledged for some time that something will have to be done in this regard. I expect that people are waiting to see the outcome of the negotiations and when we know what the impact will be, such measures can be put in place. However, clearly, that fund will have to come from Europe. Are the witnesses aware of progress on this point or what is the current position?
On the customs voucher scheme and companies which will suddenly have to start dealing with customs for the first time, what complications exist? Is it a very difficult process to start? How difficult is it for a company which has not had to deal with these issues in the past and what sort of taxing process will be it be for them?
We are hearing that some kind of wording has been agreed or is at least up for agreement. I live in Leitrim and am really conscious of the issue of the Irish Border, particularly in the context of the movement of agricultural products. In truth, regardless of what agreement is reached, it will be impossible to police the entire Border. As a British politician said some months ago, there are more roads between Monaghan and Armagh than there are between Sweden and Norway. That simple reality must be faced at some point. I ask the witnesses if their colleagues in the UK are aware that this is an impossible circle to square?