Hogan: No-deal Brexit to hit perishables

Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development

Damage to perishable foods caught in port delays will be an early negative consequence of a no-deal Brexit, said Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s European Council’s meeting to discuss its strategy on a no-deal Brexit, Mr Hogan said the EU is confident it has developed the necessary legal basis to deploy appropriate market measures.

“Much of the food that is exported to the UK is fresh food and, therefore, perishable, with little or no scope for delays at ports,” he said.

“So, just because tariffs may not be applied, we cannot underestimate or indeed assume that such products will not be caught-up in severe logistical disruptions, particularly in the early weeks. In the case of trade to or through the UK, we have noted their stated intention to maintain ‘business as usual’, but the question has to be asked just how can that be achieved?”

In terms of the EU’s regulatory flexibility, Mr Hogan said the European Council has “an appropriately stocked toolbox” to respond to a no-deal Brexit scenario, notably trade tariffs. While restating the EU’s commitments to farmers, the Council has plans to tackle difficulties likely to arise from logistical delays, customs formalities, sanitary and phytosanitary checks.

“In terms of precisely how we might intervene, we have a suite of measures available in our legislation and we are satisfied that we have an appropriately-stocked toolbox from which we will work,” Mr Hogan said.

He also noted the Commission’s recent adoption of a new regulation allowing EU member states to deliver a 66% increase in state aid to the agricultural sector.

“I anticipate a mix of measures designed to suit particular circumstances and products,” he said. “A mix of some or all of public intervention, private storage aid, withdrawal schemes and targeted aid will form the package of support.”

Meanwhile, Irish and UK farm organisations have stated that a no-deal exit by Britain from the EU would have disastrous consequences for all farmers.

The IFA has met in Co Fermanagh with its UK farming counterparts — UFA, NFU, NFU Scotland, and NFU Cymru. All parties urged the European Council and the UK government to avoid a disorderly exit.

“We want to make clear that a no-deal exit would be economically disastrous; we need to avoid a disorderly exit from the EU,” said IFA president Joe Healy. “Any extension must be used constructively and not merely delay no deal, setting up another ‘cliff edge’ scenario.

“There is a common call from organisations representing thousands of farm families to ensure free and frictionless trade, alignment on high production standards, and a determination to cooperate for the best future for our members.”

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