Ulster farmers warn of ‘disastrous’ Brexit fallout north and south
THE Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has warned of “disastrous” consequences for farming in Northern Ireland should the UK crash out of the EU.
The UFU’s comments follow publication of the latest technical papers from the British government on a ‘no deal’ exit.
Fears that an administrative trade embargo on food and drink between the EU and UK has also sparked massive concerns.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson described the ‘no deal’ papers as “completely unacceptable” to farmers in the North.
“The papers confirm what we already knew: a ‘no deal’ Brexit is bad for farming,” he said.
“The latest notices include one which relates to the export of animals and animal products and suggests we would face a cliff-edge scenario if we leave the EU with no deal.
“This is completely unacceptable and would be disastrous for farming in Northern Ireland, particularly for our sheep industry, and for the economy.”
Meanwhile, suggestions from EU officials that the UK faces a six-month wait to be certified as an approved third-country supplier of food and drink in a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario has compounded farmers’ fears across Britain and Northern Ireland.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has estimated that meat processing plants in Britain and Northern Ireland that CAP schemes such as TAMS should include actions aimed at weather-proofing farm sheds to counter the growing ferocity and incidence of storms, the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has claimed.
“The widespread damage caused by the ‘Beast from the East’ last March and Storm Ali recently highlights the urgent need to upgrade sheds that were originally built in the 1970s and 1980s,” said INHFA director Vincent Roddy.
“This is particularly the case for sheds with lean-tos. We saw instances this spring where these collapsed under the weight of snow.
“The insurance industry should be pushing the Government on this, because it’s a farm safety issue really. currently export to the EU will have to undergo individual audits by British and EU authorities in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
Such a process will take around six months, the NFU estimate, and will have to be replicated for all UK-based companies supplying food and drink to the EU.
“What we are talking about in effect is a six-month trade embargo until such time as we can get the product in, from that point we will face the European’s external tariff wall — meaning we will be priced out of the market,” said the NFU’s director general, Terry Jones.
It has been suggested that the British government has Getting these sheds upgraded is in everybody’s interest.”
The INHFA want the 50pc grant aid under TAMS to be extended to the re-roofing and strengthening of roofs on older sheds and farm buildings; and the strengthening and maintenance of walls on existing sheds and buildings.
The hill farmer body recommended the maintenance of all the safety measures currently in place, but it has called for the minimum spend to be reduced from the current level of €2,000 to €500.
It also wants payments to farmers to be made on a phased basis.
“In order to make it more accessible to smaller farmers, we are recommending the introduction of phased plans in place to allow goods enter the UK without checks and at reduced tariff rates.
The EU could introduce emergency legislation to keep food from Britain flowing, but such a decision is unlikely to be taken ahead of the UK’s exit.
Any disruption in trade between the UK and EU has massive implications for both farmers and processors on both sides of the Irish border.
Meat factories in the south slaughter 370,000 sheep and lambs from the North each year, while dairies in the Republic process around 800m litres of milk produced in Northern Ireland.
Similarly, Northern slaughter plants process a significant proportion of pigs from the South. payments made when the project has reached certain milestones. And, if required, upfront funding to farmers that can’t acquire loan facilities,” said Mr Roddy.
Meanwhile, the INHFA would also like to see sheep-fencing measures and a liming subsidy included for 40pc grant aid.
“With regard to erecting sheep fencing and the requirement for farmers on Natura land or along a shoreline to seek planning permission, a provision needs to be made to cover the full cost of this planning,” Mr Roddy said.
“This provision should be in addition to the existing grant.
“And where a maximum grant limit has been set, this should not form part of that limit.”