Minister Humphreys meets with farmers in County Down to discuss this week’s UK EU Referendum
The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, will this evening (Monday) address a group of farmers in County Down to outline the Irish Government’s position on this week’s UK referendum and to discuss the potential negative impacts of a ‘Leave’ vote on the farming community. The meeting has been organised by SDLP MP Margaret Richie.
Speaking in advance of the meeting Minister Humphreys said:
“Tonight I hope to shine a light on some of the issues which I think are pertinent to farmers, particular in this border region, as they come to decide which way to vote in this Thursday’s UK EU Referendum. As someone who lives on a farm just a couple of miles over the border, this is an issue which is very much close to my heart.
“Being part of the EU has brought many benefits to Northern Ireland and the Border region. Britain and Ireland’s membership of the EU has been an important part of building better relationships and in underpinning the right of people here to be British, or Irish, or both. PEACE funding has made a huge contribution to communities along the Border region and access to the single market, which is only possible through EU membership, helps to create jobs.
“While respecting that it is a matter for the UK electorate, the Irish Government does not underestimate the challenges which a Leave vote could create. This is especially true from a trade perspective and is of serious concern for the Irish agri-food sector. The UK is by far Ireland’s largest trading partner.
“According to the CSO, in 2015 we exported almost €5.1 billion worth of agricultural products, including almost €970 million in dairy products and more than €1.1 billion in beef products. Our imports from the UK were worth €3.8 billion, of which nearly €470 million were dairy products and over €100 million were beef products.
“This bilateral trade takes place on the basis of harmonised EU rules on animal and public health and labelling, without complex certification, quota limitations, or customs duties or tariffs. And of course it is all underpinned by the implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy.
“The farming sector north and south of the border is interlinked along the agri-food value chain. Much of the milk produced in the North is processed in the South. Cattle are fattened in different farms on either side of the border before being slaughtered on one side or the other. And our agri-science industry operates across the border.
“Leaving the EU would leave Northern Ireland open to many risks. The Open University economist Leslie Budd has concluded that leaving the EU could cost the Northern Ireland economy almost £1 billion a year. He said that transaction costs for cross border trade could ‘rise significantly’ and ‘act as a disincentive’ to economic co-operation.
“Ireland has a unique view on this week’s referendum, given our close relationship with the UK. I believe it is in the best interest of farmers in Northern Ireland, and indeed people right across the UK, to stay in the EU, and I hope that will be to the forefront of their minds when they go to the polls later this week.”