The Christmas Eve Brexit deal means that Irish agriculture won’t be hit with a tax on imports to Britain in excess of €1bn, but it is going to be hit with a tsunami of red tape that brings its own cost.
This red tape takes the form of having a veterinary health certificate and customs declaration completed for every dispatch to Britain for goods of animal origin, that includes anything that contains meat or dairy.
This has been the practice for Irish exports of these goods to countries outside the UK and EU on an ongoing basis but it will mean a huge increase in the volume of paperwork required to do business with Britain after 1 January.
The Taoiseach said in a briefing at Dublin Port recently that the number of customs declarations each year in Ireland will increase from 1.5m to 20m.
Along with paperwork come inspections. The UK and EU will have separate sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls after 1 January and these mean that risk-based inspections are carried out on goods of animal origin as they enter each other’s territories.
On meat, the level of inspections are set at 30% and this will cause delays and cost in ports, though checks at British ports are to be phased in over the next six months, not on day one.
Northern Ireland (NI)
NI will remain part of the EU single market and be subject to EU controls. This means that trade on the island of Ireland for livestock, meat and dairy products can continue as it is at present without any interruption.
This, however, means that inspections will take place on products of animal origin entering NI from Britain, which will mean between 40 and 50 lorries being pulled in for checks at NI ports daily, according to the NI chief veterinary officer Robert Huey.
All of this means farmers will experience little change in day-to-day business next week, though importing livestock from Britain will be much more complicated, with a quarantine period necessary.
Business will be more bureaucratic for factories and hauliers sending product to Britain and in time there is a risk that the British market will become much more competitive if the UK enters trade deals with the other big agricultural exporting countries of the world.
The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine has opened a special Brexit hotline for anyone with queries about trading between the Republic of Ireland and the UK.
The phone number is 076-106 4443 and the line will be open 24 hours a day.
People with queries can also email BrexitCall@agriculture.gov.ie with questions.
The Department also has a dedicated hub for Brexit information on its site.