The reopening of the Irish embassy in Iran would be a “gamechanger” in the post-Brexit climate and open up access for Ireland to a market of a quarter of a billion people.
That’s according to Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, who is targetting new markets for Ireland’s food and farming sectors in the wake of the Brexit result.
In an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Creed also said he believes Fianna Fáil will not withdraw support for the minority government as it needs the model to work for future power-sharing deals.
Mr Creed said the Government wants to have recognition of “our excessive dependence on the UK market” in any Brexit deal at EU level.
The Department of Agriculture has set up a special committee to examine problems when the UK triggers its exit. Diversifying buyers of Irish produce will help protect against any shocks, said Mr Creed.
“For the artisan producer, the UK is very important. [With the] growing middle classes in south-east Asia in particular, where there’s a westernisation of diet, is offering a significant opportunity.”
Mr Creed has twice met the Chinese ambassador in Dublin.
“They’re interested in cuts from the carcass that are not the most sought-after cuts here. In these societies, you have to have high-level political contact and then you can bring in business companies to do their deals in China with the companies.”
However, the minister is also hopeful Ireland will reopen its embassy in Iran.
“I know it is something that is being considered. But it’s not just a market of 80m people in Iran, it’s actually a corridor to a quarter of a billion people.”
The embassy in Tehran was closed in 2012, but consideration is now being given to reopening it. Mr Creed said there would be huge opportunities for trading sheep meat, given the large Muslim population.
“I think the embassy would be a gamechanger,” he said.
An unknown effect from Brexit, said the minister, may also be EU trawlers turning their sights on Irish waters if the UK kicks them out of their territories.
“It would mean EU ships that fish within those waters are now going to be displaced and there’s going to be more fishermen chasing a finite resource in EU waters. That’s a problem for us,” said the Macroom, Co Cork-based minister.
Irish fishing waters concentrate on 40 species while the UK is a significant holder of 35 of those, the minister pointed out.
“I’m concerned that there will be more people fishing a finite resource if the UK exits and gets a deal that says ‘these are our waters and nobody is allowed to catch in there anymore’.”
Mr Creed believes the minority administration will survive, given Fianna Fáil’s need to avail of a similar powersharing deal if it leads a government in future.
“We are going to be in this space, the minority government, that’s where it is going to be where it is at. There’s not going to be anybody getting [a larger vote]. I do think it’s going to be minorities, I think Fianna Fáil realise that this minority government must work for other minority governments to work.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved