18th August 2017
Commenting on the Brexit Position Paper released by the UK Government this week, Michael Bell, Executive Director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), said:
“NIFDA welcomes the Government’s commitment to preserve a seamless, frictionless, open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The deeply integrated nature of the agri-food sector between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain means that a practical solution to the border issue is in the best interests of all parties and should be prioritised as such.
“We note with interest that a position paper focusing specifically on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is to be compiled and look forward to its earliest publication. Given the potential significance of this paper for trade, we remain extremely concerned that the region most affected by these negotiations is not adequately represented at the negotiating table. We once again call on all political parties to work together to restore the local Executive and provide people and business in Northern Ireland with the political representation they deserve at this critical time.
“NIFDA published a Brexit report last November which outlined the importance of a future trade deal which facilitates a soft border with the Republic of Ireland and maintains the movement of people and goods, free from tariffs and border control delays with the EU. These issues remain imperative, particularly as we look to expand and grow our most important industry through new trade deals with other countries. For example, the recently announced deal to export NI pork to China will require continued access to EU labour, upon which our agri-food sector has become significantly reliant on.
“We are working closely with our colleagues in the Food and Drink Federation and Food and Drink Ireland to ensure that the unique trading relationships between Northern Ireland, the UK and the Republic Ireland can continue to grow and prosper during the period of Brexit negotiations and beyond. We are also remain actively engaged in lobbying the UK government to recognise the specific requirements of our industry.
“We look forward to seeing the principles outlined in this document being developed into practicable, workable solutions in the months ahead. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the singular importance of the agri-food industry to the economy here and will continue to work with relevant parties to ensure the future growth of our vibrant agri-food sector.”