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Donegal minister welcomes EU-UK agreement on future relationship

McConalogue pledges to stand by affected sectors

Donegal minister welcomes EU-UK agreement on future relationship

Minister McConalogue has welcomed the agreement between the EU and the UK on their future relationship

Donegal's TD and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue  has welcomed the announcement of an agreement between the EU and the UK on their future relationship.

Although the full text of the agreement is still to be assessed, the minister welcomed, in particular, the agreed establishment of a trading relationship based on zero tariffs and quota restrictions, while at the same time, pointing to the more challenging impacts that will arise for the fishing industry as a result of the agreement reached on fishing quotas.

Speaking after yesterday’s announcement, the Minister said: “I welcome today’s agreement between EU and UK negotiators after what has been a long and difficult process.

"This is a positive agreement for Ireland’s agri-food sector, primarily in the avoidance of what would have been very damaging tariffs in the event of ‘No Deal’. The potential for tariffs of up to €2.5 billion on agri-food trade between Ireland and Great Britain had been one of the primary concerns for Government and for stakeholders right across the agri-food sector, so it is welcome that such an outcome has been avoided.

"The deal does, however, contain unwelcome elements for our fishing industry despite Ireland continually putting forward the strongest possible case for the sector,” he said.

Minister McConalogue emphasised that Brexit always had the potential to impact very negatively on both the agri-food and fisheries industries. Since taking office, he had worked closely with all stakeholders, with Government colleagues and with Member State counterparts to ensure that the best deal possible could be obtained for farming and fishing communities across the country.

“It was critical that a ‘No Deal’ outcome be avoided, not just because of its potential negative impact on trade, but also because of its very serious implications for the fishing industry as a result of access being denied to UK waters and displacement of EU fleets into Ireland’s fishing zone."

In this regard, the Minister said: “The deal secured in the negotiations has avoided that outcome and secured for Ireland and other EU fleets continued access to UK waters for the next five and a half years, with a further review on continued access thereafter. Inevitably, the deal comes at a price and I know that it will have real impact on our fishing fleet and coastal communities."

He added that the EU Fishing industry will unfortunately have to concede some of the fish previously caught in UK waters. However, this will be much less than what the UK was demanding throughout, and right up to the end of these negotiations, but he was acutely conscious that these quota reductions will affect important parts of Ireland’s fishing industry. He confirmed that the Government will work hard with the industry to do all it can in supporting and addressing these challenges.

"I greatly appreciate the input of fishing industry representatives throughout the negotiation process ensuring that Ireland always spoke with one voice. I would like to reassure stakeholders that the Government fully understands their concerns regarding a cut in a number of quota shares, and we will work together with the sector to develop the necessary supports and approach to address these impacts.

"We will also examine the wider economic impacts on the agri-food and fisheries sectors that will arise, and consider the development of appropriate and targeted supports, including through engagement with the European Commission on the Brexit Adjustment Reserve,” he said.

Minister McConalogue again noted the importance of the recent agreement on the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement, including the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol, which is of fundamental importance to the operation of the all-island economy and the highly integrated all-island agri-food supply chains.

Finally, and importantly, Minister McConalogue took the opportunity to remind all agri-food and fisheries stakeholders - and especially those businesses moving agri-food goods to, from and through Great Britain - that, regardless of today’s agreement, from January 1, things will change in the functioning of supply chains.

“I stress that, despite yesterday’s developments, our preparations for new regulatory checks and controls that come into effect on January 1 must continue unabated. The fact is that the UK has left the EU, and will trade with the EU as a Third Country from January 1.

"From a regulatory point of view, new sanitary and phytosanitary requirements in the form of documentary, identity and physical checks will apply to imports of animals, plants, and products of animal and plant origin from Great Britain, as set out in EU legislation.

"The seamless trading arrangements in place while the UK was a member of the Single Market will no longer be possible, and disruption and additional costs will arise.

“My department, in conjunction with other departments, will ensure that the necessary controls are conducted in a manner that ensures the minimum possible disruption to trade flows whilst also meeting our EU regulatory requirements.

"We will also ensure that new certification requirements in respect of exports to Great Britain, which are being phased in from January 1, will be complied with, but again, this will bring new processes, administration and costs that have not been experienced in respect of such trade until now.

“Finally, I want to reassure our farmers and fishers that the Government will stand with them in helping them deal with the implications of this Brexit outcome. We will continue to listen to, engage with and support all sectors in the time ahead,” the minister said.

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