Brexit was high on the agenda and the issue on th elips of many of those in attendance at the Offaly IFA AGM held at the Tullamore Court Hotel on Thursday evening last, February 9. Common Agricultural Policy reform and the future of the EU and agriculture generally in a rapidly changing landscape were all raised by members on the night.
Addressing the meeting, MEP for Offaly and first Vice-President of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness, said agriculture and food was the key area where there are significant concerns about the potential impact of Brexit, given the high level of exports to the UK. “Equally the all island nature of the agriculture sector could be damaged by a Brexit that results in borders and tariffs on our food exports," McGuinness stated.
“In a worst case scenario we could be looking at tariffs of 50-60% on our agri food exports, which would make us very uncompetitive and increase prices for food in the UK,” she added. She also said any potential trade agreements made by the UK following Brexit with countries like Brazil or New Zealand would hit farmers badly.
However, Ms McGuinness said that the "UK food supply chain relies on Irish food imports and this could not be replaced suddenly. We must work towards a solution which enables us to continue to trade even if achieving this may be very difficult,” she said. On the future of the CAP post 2020, the MEP said farmers can get involved in the process by feeding into the consultation currently underway.
“I urge farmers to get involved and influence the debate and not allow others to decide the future of the CAP,” she said. She continued by saying that deepening the environmental delivery of the CAP may be part of the proposals coming forward, but it’s hard to see how this will be done without increasing the bureaucratic burden on farmers which would be unacceptable. We need a more holistic approach to how we integrate environmental, climate and biodiversity challenges into the CAP,” she said.
On the future of the EU, Ms. McGuinness said the UK decision cannot dictate the future of the EU. “It’s up to the EU and its citizens to decide if countries working together is more important and valuable than the alternative, which is disintegration and chaos."
"Ireland has a key role in shaping the EU. Now more than ever we must see the value of cooperation, especially for small and peripheral member states," she concluded.