Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Farmers' Union calls for more clarity over 'bureaucratic' deal

What NI business leaders had to say about Johnson's Brexit deal

The Ulster Farmers’ Union said more clarity was needed.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union said more clarity was needed.
NI Retail Consortium director Aodhan Connolly
Connaire McGreevy
Brian Irwin
Rajesh Rana
Declan Billington
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The Ulster Farmers' Union has branded Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal "complex and bureaucratic".

While it said that a no-deal must be avoided, the UFU warned there were "more questions than answers" about the agreement reached on Thursday.

The plan would create a single regulatory market on the island of Ireland but bring checks on goods coming into Northern Ireland from Britain.

The Dairy Council, which represents farmers in Northern Ireland's biggest sector in agriculture, has also said a no-deal Brexit would place the livelihoods of 3,000 dairy farmers here "on the line".

The UFU had been in favour of former Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement and the backstop, which placed it in opposition to the DUP.

In its first assessment of the plans, the UFU said yesterday: "More clarity is needed about how this new deal would work.

"While the proposals appear to address concerns around regulations and tariffs, our initial assessment deemed the plans complex and bureaucratic.

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"In particular, we need clarity and detail around Northern Ireland's access to EU trade deals once the transition period ends.

"If we are excluded, this would have a significant impact on trade between Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland."

It also said more certainty was needed on Northern Ireland's unfettered access to the Britain market.

The union, which remained neutral in the run-up to the Brexit referendum of June 2016, added: "Our key objective from day one has been to secure trade that is as free and frictionless as possible east/west and north/south.

"A no-deal, however, remains the worst possible outcome for Northern Ireland's family-run farm businesses and must be avoided."

However, Aodhan Connolly, the director of the NI Retail Consortium, said it was "encouraging" to see the deal.

"Retailers and consumers have long weathered under Brexit uncertainty and each passing day represents time, money and effort that struggling retailers can ill afford. With the Brexit clock still ticking down to a chaotic no-deal, it is finally time to take this risk off the table for good."

Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) chairman Brian Irwin welcomed the deal and said a no-deal Brexit would be fatal to the industry.

"We have lobbied consistently, at all levels, to make it clear that a no-deal Brexit is unthinkable for the food industry," he said.

"We cannot entertain it. As an industry we cannot operate with a border on the island of Ireland, nor can we absorb tariffs to export to Europe."

Of all sections of the farming industry, dairy farmers are likely to be the most exposed to the effects of a no-deal Brexit.

The Dairy Council NI said there are not enough facilities in the UK to process the amount of milk produced here, with 35% of it currently being processed in the Republic.

What NI business leaders had to say about Johnson's Brexit plan

Connaire McGreevy, managing director, CTS Projects:

"How can any business representative body support this deal? It's simply a case of any deal is better than no deal. That's not good enough. Bring it back to the people now we know what exit means."

Brian Irwin, chairman of Irwin's Bakery and chairman of the NI Food and Drink Federation:

"The UK-EU withdrawal deal we can broadly welcome - it offers important safeguards for NI businesses to continue trading east-west and north-south. There is still a considerable amount of detail to be worked out, including on VAT, but many key areas have been addressed."

Rajesh Rana, director of Andras Hotels:

"There is no perfect Brexit deal and many observers may criticise this deal, but any deal is better than no deal. I call upon all of our MPs to put the interests of Northern Ireland at the front of their minds and vote for the deal."

Declan Billington, chief executive of Thompsons Feeds:

"What was finally agreed was better than expected. For it to be a success, however, it needs to sit alongside a good UK-EU free trade agreement with no tariffs and no quotas."

Belfast Telegraph