The Government must introduce a low-interest loans package worth hundreds of millions to save the agri-food industry against Brexit, Fianna Fáil has claimed.
Party leader Micheál Martin has also warned that Ireland will have to look for state aid in the wake of Brexit to keep some industries alive.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Martin said: “Ireland needs to come up with solutions and we need to invest in our competitiveness in the regions in order to withstand the negative impacts of Brexit.”
He said the “big worry” his party now has is around the lucrative agri-food sector and called on Government to seek a low-interest loan package from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to help bolster these companies.
“You take Munster or you take the Cork area, the agri-food industry is powerful, you are taking about 50% beef exports to Britain and I think 28% dairy exports to Britain. So we have a problem.
“In an area like Munster and the South in particular, obviously the impact on dairy and beef could be very problematic.”
The Cork South Central TD said these much-needed medium-term loans would help make operations more efficient and would help to weather the Brexit storm.
Mr Martin added that this capital could be Government backed or could come from the EIB but that initiative needs to be taken in relation to the agri-food sector.
“In our view there has been an absence of preparation around solutions.”
Even if this capital is supplied before Britain exits the EU, Mr Martin warned that Brexit will have such a detrimental impact on our economy that we will require State aid for some sectors.
“Europe may use the phrase solidarity, under the EU treaties this will be defined as a significant economic disturbance and therefore there will be a need to facilitate companies to adjust.
“It’s something that Brussels is worried about.”
He referred back to 2014 when Russia imposed sanctions on EU produce and imports.
In reaction, the European Commission introduced market support measures and financial aid to growers of perishable fruit and vegetables in countries impacted in order to keep several of their products off the market to avoid a price collapse.
Mr Martin said a similar State aid scheme is inevitable for Ireland once Britain finally leaves the EU.
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