MEP for Offaly addresses Austrian Agri Conference

Offaly Express Reporter

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Mairead McGuinness at Austrian Agri Conference

Elisabeth Köstinger MEP, Mairead McGuinness MEP; Martina Salomon, Reinhard Wolf and Stefan Lindner

Mairead McGuinness MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament raised Irish Brexit concerns as a key speaker at the 64th annual Winter Conference in Vienna - Austria's biggest and most reputable event in the field of agriculture and forestry this week.

Addressing attendees, including EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan,  McGuinness took the opportunity to highlight Irish concerns over Brexit including the peace process, the border with Northern Ireland and trade: "Over 40 percent of Irish food and drink exports go to the UK - the sector has already been exposed to the fall in the value of sterling following the Brexit vote.

“If the UK leaves the single market and the customs union, which British Prime Minister Theresa May has indicated, the free movement of goods on an all-island basis will suffer. For example, the Irish dairy industry operates an all-island supply chain. If a scenario involving tariffs and customs checks comes into being, non-tariff barriers like labelling, food standards and traceability could also emerge. This could be devastating for Irish farmers and for the rural community north and south of the Border and potentially for jobs. It is important that the implications for the lives of individual families are considered. And there will be knock-on effects on the EU generally if Irish food exports are forced to find new markets in the EU and beyond arising from Brexit."

MEP McGuinness said that Irish issues must be EU issues and fully negotiated around the table with our partners in the EU.

"Europe will also strongly defend its position, unity of the EU27 must and will be strong from the beginning to the end of the process."