Wednesday, 15 September 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
I thank the Deputy. I appreciate that the announcement was only in the past couple of days and came after the Deputy submitted his question.
As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I can assure the Deputy that the Government is very much aware of the challenges that Brexit brings for exporters, in particular for businesses in the agrifood sector. We continue to work closely with the agrifood sector to mitigate the impact of the new trading arrangements to operationalise the new EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, TCA. We are also continuing to engage with our EU and UK colleagues on the introduction of further administrative requirements for trade.
Last week, I met UK Cabinet Minister Michael Gove, MP, as part of Enterprise Ireland's trade mission and I discussed the additional measures proposed by the UK. Since then the UK Government has announced an extension to the current grace periods beyond 1 October and, it seems, at least until the end of the year.
The agrifood sector is a major and important contributor to the Irish economy, particularly our rural economy, and any further regulatory requirements will present additional challenges and costs for Irish exporters. We are committed to ensuring that Irish food exporters fully understand any potential new UK import requirements and everyone in the supply chain is as prepared as possible. Being fully prepared is not the same as saying there will not be problems. Of course there will if there are new rules and regulations, forms to fill in and checks. With this in mind, there is ongoing cross-departmental engagement involving my Department and Enterprise Ireland to put in place a range of financial and advisory assistance measures to help our businesses to prepare for this new environment.
My colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, is leading on sector preparedness, and his Department and its UK equivalent, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, DEFRA, are engaging on the range of measures in place and proposed. His Department has also run joint webinars with DEFRA on the UK import controls. In a recent survey undertaken by Bord Bia, over 80% of Irish companies reported that they were ready for the new procedures proposed for imports into Great Britain of products of animal origin. They were planned for October. Therefore, if 80% are saying they are prepared, 20% may not be.
While the UK has announced the extension of grace periods, I remain confident that solutions exist, within the parameters of the protocol, to deal with the issues that have arisen to date. The EU has demonstrated time and again a considered, credible, solution-driven approach to these issues and will continue to encourage the UK Government to be similarly constructive in its approach.