Wednesday, 20 May 2020
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
844. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the steps being taken to protect Irish agricultural and fishing interests during Brexit negotiations; and the status of discussions regarding a potential extension to the current deadline in order to facilitate an agreed trade agreement. [5830/20]
The agri-food sector has greatly increased the value of food and drink exports over the last number of years. In 2019 overall exports were €14.5 billion, and the UK remains our largest market, with exports of almost €5.5 billion. Therefore, our shared primary interest is to secure the best possible outcome from the EU-UK negotiations for the Irish agri-food and fisheries sectors, given both the disproportionate exposure of these sectors to the UK market, and the need to maintain existing reciprocal access to fishing waters and resources.
We have been very clear on our key ‘asks’ in the future relationship negotiations, which are:
- continued free access to the UK market, without tariffs and with minimal or no additional customs and administrative procedures;
- minimisation of the risk from UK trade agreements with third countries; and
- maintenance of existing reciprocal access and quota shares to fishing waters and resources.
The timelines are tight for these negotiations, even more so given the challenges currently posed by COVID-19. While there have been calls for an extension to the transition period, including from significant sectors in the UK, the UK Government response continues to be that the transition period will end on 31 December 2020, and that they will not seek an extension. I do not believe that it is helpful to speculate further on the matter at this juncture, other than to note, of course, that an extension is a matter for agreement by both parties in accordance with the timelines laid out.
We remain fully abreast of stakeholder concerns in these negotiations and I can assure the Deputy that my Department officials and I are continuing to work within a whole of Government effort to ensure the best possible outcome for the agri-food and fisheries sectors.