Brexit may see all Agrifood trade on All Ireland basis
An internal memo, submitted by the European Comission, has proposed that all agri food trade be done on an all ireland basis after Brexit.
The European Comission have proposed all Agri-food trade to be carried out on an All Ireland basis, as reported by RTE news.
The proposal was leaked today and is thought to have come from Comission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s office. He suggested recently that although trade across borders would be subject to customs, that agriculture could be treated in its own category on an all island basis.
This would mean greater controls would be needed between Northern Ireland and the UK. The memo was sent to the Irish government back in February, before being spotted by RTE. The Taoiseach is believed to have been briefed on the memo upon his appointment.
The memo, ’Brexit and the border between Ireland and the UK’, picked out three main areas of concern in Brexit. These were cross border trading, common travel area and the trade in services. It is believed that this would limit any disruption to the agri-food sector.
There has been major concerns on this subject as of late, due to the fact that Northern Ireland will be subject to stricter regulations on its food products and animal health regimes. This is because it will no longer be in the EU. This memo however proposes a way in which agri-food flow could continue as normal.
Northern Ireland would however still need to adhere to the EU animal health and food safety regulations should this go through. This might mean checks at the country’s ports and products from the UK. Theses checks would need to be carried out by EU vet and food safety inspectors, potentially from South of the border.
This memo also acknowlegdes work carried out by Irish Revenue Comissioners thus far,in how they have been looking to limit disruption and the impact of customs control on the border.
“Irish customs and revenue have put significant work into designing a solution which aims to minimise the risk to the peace process. It is based on the creation of a near invisible border, with a very limited number of visible customs checkpoints, and which would predominantly rely on pre recording of relevant information”, the memo states.
The memo then follows up that this does not in fact address the requirements for trade in agri-food products. It says it does not see and all Ireland solution on trade in goods outside the agri-food sector. For the all-ireland agri-food trade to work the memo says substantial investment would be needed in customs infrastructure. It also says the EU would need to fully accept that Ireland was abiding by regulations.
To work Ireland would need to invest heavily on customs control infrastructure, while the EU would need to believe that Ireland was abiding by customs regulations.
An alternative suggested was if the UK abided by EU rules as a whole, though the EU would have to certify the UK regulatory system. The memo also states the risks for Ireland if any animal disease outbreaks occur in the UK or if there are any food safety issues. This would result in stricter enforcement between the Britain and Northern Ireland.
“For Ireland it would entail the risk that in case of problems with the safety of UK products or disease outbreaks, it would face trade restrictions based on the fact that UK products can circulate freely within the island of Ireland”, the memo states.
The memo does point to previous attempts at establishing an all Ireland health policy which were not finalised because of disease control problems. It also says any scenario where this might happen could see Ireland facing a heavy financial burden. The author of the memo also notes that All-ireland agri-food trade would face strong opposition from Unionists, while it says it could harm the peace process.
The memo is said to have received a cautious welcome from Irish officials, who say it is "welcome, but premature". The memo would require the full support of Northern Irish politicians also.