An Taoiseach Micheál Martin welcomed the conclusion of negotiations between the EU and the UK.

“I hope that this outcome will now be approved by both sides and that the necessary procedures to allow the agreement to enter force on 1 January will proceed smoothly.

“The Government will now consider the detail of the text very carefully.

“From what we have heard today, I believe that it represents a good compromise and a balanced outcome,” he said.


IFA president Tim Cullinan said the deal reached between the EU and the UK is a relief, but that it will pose significant difficulties for the Irish agri-food sector.

“The work of the two sides to avoid a ‘no-deal’ has to be acknowledged, particularly after four years of damaging uncertainty which had an impact on farm incomes. However, the eventual outcome leaves little reason to celebrate,” he said.

Cullinan commended the work of the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier for his patience and perseverance in pursuit of an outcome that steered away from a crash-out situation.

“We have real concerns about how non-tariff barriers will impact on our ability to keep trade flows moving. The scenes at Dover this week, with hundreds of trucks backed up and freight delayed, do not bode well. Green lanes have been implemented previously for food exports. These must be prioritised after 1 January.

Farmers here on the island of Ireland and in the UK are steadfast in their view of standards

“The Government and the EU must have the €400m support fund for Irish farmers ready in the new year to address any market disturbance. The €5bn EU Brexit adjustment fund must also be available,” he said.

Cullinan also said the longer-term implication for our food exports could be the flooding of the UK market by cheap imports.

“Farmers here on the island of Ireland and in the UK are steadfast in their view of standards. The danger is that the deal isn’t robust enough to ensure the regulations of the single market are adhered to,” he said.

The IFA has said it will be analysing the detail of the deal to evaluate the impact on Irish food exports.

“We have consistently said that Irish farmers are at the top of the queue, and that the Irish Government will have to bring forward support for our farming sector,” he said.

ICSA reaction

ICSA president Edmond Phelan has said that the successful conclusion of a Brexit trade deal was a “huge relief to the farming community” and that “it now meant that there is no reason for beef price to remain in the doldrums.”

“At last, common sense has prevailed but it has been a very stressful period for all in the farming sector. There is no escaping the fact that the beef sector in particular has suffered huge losses due to market volatility and exchange rate movements.

“It will be essential now for Ireland to make the case for a substantial piece of the EU Brexit €5bn fund,” he said.

The ICSA is now calling on beef processors to immediately increase beef price in line with the price being paid to British farmers.

Bord Bia

Bord Bia welcomed the free-trade agreement but signalled caution on the impact of new competitive forces in a post-Brexit Britain.

Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia, said: “We welcome the clarity that this post-Brexit free-trade deal brings for Ireland’s food, drink and horticulture sectors but considerable uncertainty still lies ahead for our largest indigenous sector.

“With €4.5bn in food exports destined for the UK last year, this market is crucial for our beef, dairy, prepared consumer foods and some horticulture producers.

“Four years into the Brexit process, from 1 January 2021, Ireland will face an entirely new set of competitive forces in a post-Brexit Britain as customs compliance procedures are introduced and the market further expands to global competition.

“January will see the introduction of customs declarations, health certificates and other processes that will be new to many exporters and will add additional costs and complexities to decades-old supply chains.

Four years into the Brexit process, from 1 January 2021, Ireland will face an entirely new set of competitive forces in a post-Brexit Britain

“A continuing lack of detail on some elements of Britain’s border operating model will also bring uncertainty from January.

“Compounded by contracting global exports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ongoing global economic disruption, the market diversification efforts under way by Bord Bia’s network of global offices comes into sharp focus. Our food and drink producers will need considerable support to chart their way through the challenges that lie ahead both domestically and internationally,” she said.

Northern Ireland food and drink industry

Northern Ireland food and drink industry leaders have cautiously welcomed the free-trade agreement, as the Brexit transition period comes to an end.

Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) chair Nick Whelan said that, while preferable to a no-deal scenario, there is still clarity needed around bureaucracy and dispute resolution.

“For the past four years the Northern Ireland food and drink industry has warned consistently of the dangers of any Brexit outcome that would increase barriers to trade or disrupt supply chains north-south or east-west.

“The agri-food industry on these islands is highly integrated, and anything less than frictionless trade between Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland will add costs and reduce choice to the consumer, and ultimately cost livelihoods.

“As was the case when the withdrawal agreement was agreed, this deal is welcome insofar as it takes us from the cliff edge - but it is far from perfect, and we still need clarity on a number of key areas.

“If the Northern Ireland protocol is to be durable, the UK and EU will need to address the challenges to local consumers of reduced choice and increased cost as a result of new administrative burdens on GB-NI trade. Additionally, we need a fair arbitration system to be in place from day one as there will be errors and teething problems as we come to terms with new procedures, and we want to minimise waste.

As was the case when the withdrawal agreement was agreed, this deal is welcome insofar as it takes us from the cliff edge

“The food industry is working very hard to maintain continuity of supply throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Our key workers across the food supply chain – farmers, food factory staff, delivery drivers, retail assistants and everyone in between – have really stepped up to the plate to ensure food has stayed on the shelves over the past nine months.

“The additional bureaucracy required as a result of the deal does not make this challenge easier, but leaving without a deal would have magnified it and brought serious pressure on the industry at the worst possible time,” he said.


A spokesperson for the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) said the historic agreement of a zero tariff, zero quota trade deal, is a truly welcome Christmas gift for families and communities across rural Ireland.

“We await now the opportunity to review the full terms of the agreement. In particular, we will be looking for details on the controls which will apply on our trade with the UK.

“These administrative and sanitary controls are costly and burdensome new trade barriers, which we hope can be eased, and possibly more work will be needed in future to ensure this,” the spokesperson said.

Dairy Industry Ireland

While welcoming the Brexit deal, Dairy Industry Ireland (DDI) warned that agri-food in Ireland still faced huge new barriers from 1 January that would make consumers, farmers and companies in Ireland, Britain and the EU poorer.

DII has called on the Irish Government to work on things in its control to mitigate costs to the industry and suppliers as a result of the deal, including:

  • An immediate opening of an export credit insurance scheme to help companies aggressively seek new markets. Ireland currently is a complete outlier in the EU with no state scheme despite Irish dairy exporting 95% of its product.
  • Confirmation that the term ‘Irish’ applies to Irish dairy and specialised nutrition product from the entire island.
  • Access of all Irish product from the island to existing EU free trade agreements.
  • Access to EU market intervention tools for all product from the island of Ireland such as Private Storage Aid and Intervention.
  • Continued support and investment by the Irish State in alternatives to the British landbridge.