The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D., today addressed the Brexit Stakeholder Consultative Committee where he welcomed the resumption of talks by the EU and the UK, which aim to close the gaps between the two sides, including on the key issues of fisheries, the level playing field and governance. The Minister again urged agri-food businesses to immediately take the practical steps necessary to prepare for the changes that Brexit will bring from 1 January 2021.
The Minister said, ‘’This meeting is being held at a critical time, given that there are only around 70 days until the Economic Brexit becomes a reality for us all. We have said this before, but it bears repeating …. things will change on 1 January 2021, and we need to understand what this will mean and be ready for it.. There will be additional delays and costs, and businesses need to factor this into their planning for the period from 1 January onwards.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs gave an update on the state of play of EU-UK negotiations and the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, the full, effective and timely implementation of which remains vital.
The Department of Transport provided an update in relation to the issue of direct ferry connections to the continent. Minister McConalogue encouraged businesses to engage with ferry companies on direct services in order to avoid potential delays on the UK landbridge.
Department of Agriculture officials updated stakeholders in relation to the wide range of Brexit readiness work that has been completed and on further ongoing work. Stakeholders were again encouraged to ask their members who trade with Great Britain to register with the Department so that they will receive relevant information directly, and to register with Revenue to obtain an EORI number.
Recognising the vulnerability of the agri-food and fisheries sectors in the event that no EU-UK agreement is reached in the coming weeks, the Minister welcomed the Government’s recent budgetary provision for an overall contingency fund of €3.4 billion to address the twin challenges of Brexit and Covid-19.
The Minister stated, “This contingency fund will be made available to assist our most vulnerable sectors. In addition, we know that the EU will establish a €5 billion Brexit Adjustment Reserve for the Member States and sectors worst affected by Brexit. Clearly, Ireland and its agri-food and fisheries sectors are particularly exposed, and I look forward to seeing the Commission’s proposals in relation to how this fund will be administered.”
On Fisheries the Minister noted his recent bilateral meetings with Fisheries Ministers from France, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands when he attended the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg this week and said that, “As we reach a critical point in the negotiations, I highlighted that, now more than ever, it is vital that Member States continue to remain united in order to protect the EU’s fishing industry and coastal communities. Unity, cooperation and solidarity between Member States are vital at this critical juncture.”
Concluding the Minister said,“With just over two months until the end of the transition period, time is very short and action is required urgently. This is not something that can be left to the last minute, so I would appeal to businesses in the agri-food sector to take action now.”