“We will continue to press for free and unfettered access to the British market, with no tariffs and no additional customs or administration procedures,” an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told farmers and agribusinesses gathered at Iverk Show in Co Kilkenny on Saturday.

He said that the UK’s decision to leave the EU is one that will create enormous challenges, particularly for the border area and the agri-food sector.

“It’s not a policy of our making, it’s a British decision, and one that is unwelcome but one that we have to deal with nonetheless,” the Taoiseach said.

Farming is essential part of the social, cultural and economic fabric of this country

“I want to assure you that Ireland is negotiating from a position of real strength, being part of the EU team of 27 member states, and it is our aim, and it will be in all our interests, to emerge from Brexit with the closest possible trading relationship with the UK and European Union.

“Farming is essential part of the social, cultural and economic fabric of this country,” he added.


Speaking to the Irish Farmers Journal, the Taoiseach outlined his three key priorities for farmers.

The first is to “get as good an outcome as possible from Brexit, ideally retaining barrier-free trade between Britain and Ireland, which is so important because so much of our exports, particularly beef, but many other areas as well go to the British market”.

The second is to retain the structure of the CAP in supporting family farming, high-quality environmental and animal welfare standards, and making sure there is adequate funding in the CAP budget for the next round of budget negotiations.

“That is going to be important because Britain leaving will leave a Britain-sized hole in the budget and we’re going to need to deal with that.”

Bord Bia

The Taoiseach also prioritised the expansion of Bord Bia and its role in promoting Irish agri-food products.

Britain is our nearest neighbour but it is by no means the only country in the world

“Even if Brexit wasn’t happening, we should diversify our markets,” he said, pledging more staff, more offices and more resources to the agency.

“Britain is our nearest neighbour but it is by no means the only country in the world and we need to make sure that we get our products, our high-quality agriculture and food products into other markets.

Currency pressure

On currency pressure, the Taoiseach said the Government and Department of Agriculture and its agencies had introduced measures to mitigate the effect of sterling volatility.

“That includes the €150m low-cost loan scheme, the introduction of new agri-taxation measures and increased funding under RDP and, of course, as we start to prepare for the budget that is coming in a few weeks’ time, we will bear in mind the potential impact of Brexit on particular sectors of the economy, on particular parts of Ireland and also the effect of sterling volatility on so many different businesses.”

He added: “Sterling volatility is very difficult. It’s not something that’s new – we had sterling weakness eight years ago, long before anyone even imagined Brexit, so it’s not something we haven’t had to deal with before.

“And while there are a lot of businesses that are badly affected by sterling, there are others that benefit – importers, energy users, for example.

“It’s difficult to come up with a mechanism that transfers that benefit from those that are benefiting from a weak sterling to those who are losing out and that’s a tricky thing to do but it’s something we are very aware of.”

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