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
Mr. Paul Lynam:
I will take two minutes and I will go through the differences. First, in response to the original question, the stakeholder engagement has been exceptional, from the regular stakeholder engagement the Tánaiste has to the customs' consultative forum to the sector-by-sector Brexit stakeholder forums that took place after the referendum and even the preparation in advance of Brexit when the UK Government did not engage in any preparation.
In terms of the supports the Government has made available, while there are quite a lot of them, I think they could be better and more wide ranging. Our competitiveness as a business community generally could be improved more. I do not think we have got the full breadth of support in terms of the budget in that regard. There has been a low take-up of the preparing for Brexit grants. They are limited to Enterprise Ireland clients and they would need to be more wide-ranging to assist the totality of businesses exporting and affected by Brexit. We have articulated the need for a customs voucher scheme to support businesses such as those that go to the Irish Exporters Association for customs training. That is now essential rather than important.
That said, the difference between the Irish preparation and the UK preparation is like the difference between day and night. The UK did not do any preparation or scenario planning in advance of Brexit. The most information it has put out is the no-deal papers. The information it gives to businesses is based on the perception that Brexit is a good thing. We do not have that in political discourse in Ireland. There is not any political party that thinks, generally speaking, Brexit is a good thing and therefore we have prepared for Brexit as a bad thing. It is very difficult for the UK Government to propose supports for something they think is genuinely going to be positive. That is not uniform across the United Kingdom, because it is devolved confidence. The Scottish and Welsh Administrations have given some support and information to their members but there has been practically nothing from the UK Government because it is based on a scenario that it thinks will be positive overall.
Authorised economic operators status does quite a lot but, as Mr. McKeever articulated, it does not fully support the agrifood sector. It is important to bear in mind that obtaining such status is not too long a process but it is expensive because of the detail that has to go into it in terms of the supply chain.
On the work we have done already, we set up a ports and transit group between the UK and Irish ports and the transit and freight sectors in terms of the knock-on effect that them not being prepared would have on Irish businesses that are prepared as best they can. Again, there are significant differences. While the UK is only now looking at different scenarios of what Brexit may potentially mean, the Irish port and transit sector is taking action. The agricultural post has been established at Rosslare Europort to look at diversification there and to create different space for checks that eventually will happen if the UK leaves the Single Market. That is not happening on the UK side of things. It has no plan for Dover at all. The UK is looking at how it can rearrange some of its landing sections in some ports but it is not taking it to the next level at all. The timeline is very tight for it to implement anything into the next stage as well.