All-island Brexit agri proposal must be 'seriously considered' says MEP

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes believes an all-island Brexit arrangement on on agri-foods has merit and must be considered

A PROPOSED tariff-free Brexit arrangement on agri-foods for the island of Ireland should be seriously considered an Irish MEP has said.

Following the proposals from Cabinet of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Fine Gael representative Brian Hayes urged all parties in Northern Ireland and the Republic not to dismiss the notion.

“The proposal from Juncker's cabinet is a first step solution and Unionists in particular must give it serious consideration and not dismiss it out of hand. We all need to start working on solutions rather than leaving everything until the 11th hour of the Brexit negotiations," Mr Hayes said.

“From a political perspective, there will be reluctance to this proposal. But this highlights the need for the Northern Ireland Executive to be in place and working so that it can scrutinise proposals like this. These are the type of issues that will define the Northern Ireland economy over the next 10 years. The Mexican stand-off between Sinn Fein and the DUP is of absolutely no help to anyone, particularly with Brexit talks at a critical phase.

“There have been vast processing structures developed between north and south, particularly in terms of dairy, beef and the transport of live animals. In 2015, there were €750 million worth of exports of agricultural products from Ireland to Northern Ireland. This unique agri-food trading relationship requires the full attention of industry and all political parties."

Mr Hayes believes the proposal emphasises the special circumstances confronting the island of Ireland and the need to provide unique solutions that prevent a hard border.

“For Ireland, this does not solve all our trade issues. We still export far more in terms of agri-food to Great Britain. The east-west trade issue will require a lot more work and consideration. The British need to start working on solutions and need to give some movement on their position," he added.

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