Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Recent Developments on Brexit: Statements
I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. He is very obliging. There has been a vote in the past few minutes in the House of Commons, with an amendment rejecting a no-deal scenario being approved by 312 votes to 308 votes. I understand that the United Kingdom will now try to seek an extension, so I urge our Government to speak to people in Europe to ensure that is facilitated and a bit of common sense can come into the Brexit process.
For Ireland and its agricultural sector in particular, every day is like being on a surfboard, going up and down. One day it is going one way and the next day it goes the other, as we saw with this morning's announcements. It is a time for calm heads and accurate information because there is much trepidation, especially in the agricultural sector. Reference has been made to calves being sold for 50 cent in certain areas as a result of Brexit but this could not be further from the truth. The real reason is that beef farmers over the past three or four years, regardless of Brexit, have taken €200 per annum less because of what factories are doing and what our British counterparts are producing.
We will know from the votes in the next hour if the UK will seek an extension. If at the end there is a hard Brexit, the UK has indicated that it will not put up a border between Northern Ireland and southern Ireland. Will we be forced by the European Union to put up a border or can we say we will not do it? We have always stated that we will not accept a border and we should concentrate on that.
In the context of the agricultural sector, we must implement plans to help with live exports. We can export 1 million animals by means of live exports but we are not doing so. For the Border communities in Donegal, Sligo, Monaghan and elsewhere, the programme for Government states that we will apply to the EU to put the area into the trans-European transport network, TEN-T. We call it the western arc. Three years after the announcement of the programme, however, this has not been done. Somebody needs to step up to the mark. If the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport will not do so, then somebody else must.
We must ensure for the agricultural sector that people can export produce to the UK. Regardless of whether we like it, the UK is our biggest export destination for beef so we must ensure that it remains so.