Monday, 29 March 2021
Matters Arising from the Withdrawal of the UK from the EU: Statements
Like many others, I compliment the Minister on his stewardship of this whole area. He and the Government and been very good and very much to the fore in doing the right thing for Ireland. His announcement in January about the Brexit adjustment reserve fund of €1.2 billion was fantastic. Other Members have mentioned that a campaign by some countries to probably try to reduce the amount of money coming to Ireland would not be acceptable. I know the Minister will fight that tooth and nail because it is important that these funds should come. There is no doubt that Ireland is taking the biggest hit.
Of course, the UK announcement of a change in the sanitary and phytosanitary, SPS, checks and controls removes much uncertainty from the beef exports. It means the beef factories can access the market without having to worry about any additional checks. That is crucial. I will say to the beef business here, however, to also step up to the mark and match the price that is being paid. That is very important. I come from what is mainly a suckler beef area. The Minister knows how crucial that is in our area. I acknowledge there are also challenges for the dairy sector but I urge the beef factory people to give the farmers a decent price now. One argument they used concerned the SPS checks, which are gone. There will be an increased demand for beef in Britain because there will be a reduction of beef in England in terms of its production. That excuse is, therefore, gone.
When one looks at opportunities, I read an article in The Irish Timesearlier today which stated that up to one in four small businesses in England have given up on exporting to the EU because of Brexit. That certainly opens up quite an opportunity for additional business for Irish firms. It is obvious to many in Britain now that the Brexit decision was a bad one which will negatively affect their country.
Brexit throws up many peculiar situations. I received correspondence from the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations about an English guy who is trying to import 15 million bees from Puglia in Italy to England. He is trying to bring them through Northern Ireland because of Brexit. The correspondence stated that if the bees go into Britain, the authorities there will burn them. Therefore, it is now being stated clearly that he will try to put the bees up for sale in Northern Ireland.
There has been a serious disease in the bee population in that part of Italy. The Italian Government has spent seven years trying to get rid of a species of beetle that absolutely destroys the bee population. Sometimes, we talk about bees in this country and people laugh as if it is not an important issue. The reality, however, is that one third of the world's food production depends on bees. Every third spoonful of food depends on pollination, which is a key word.To protect our bees is very important. I know the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is aware of this situation, as is the Minister, Deputy Coveney. It is a British issue because they come into Northern Ireland. We need to stop those bees being released in Northern Ireland because the fear of the bee people is that they will infect our bee population and cause enormous damage.