- The Prime Minister has announced that there will be "no hard border" with Ireland after Brexit, which has received a warm response from the food and drink industry
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Jeane-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, said it was a “breakthrough” and he was confident EU leaders will approve it.
Theresa May arrived in Brussels before 6am on Friday to stage a joint press conference with EU leaders. This followed an evening of tough discussions with the Democratic Unionist Party.
Juncker claimed that “sufficient progress” had been made on all three “divorce issues”, including the Irish border, a financial settlement and EU citizens’ rights. This means that negotiations can now move onto trade arrangements.
Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association, has stated that it was an important outcome for the Irish farming and food sector and it has the potential to be helpful in resolving a number of the challenges that Brexit posed for the sector.
He also believes that the text that the UK will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customers Union is significant in that it deals with the EU-UK relationship in its entirety.
Healy commented that the deal “will ensure no regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”.
Ian Wright, director general of the Food & Drink Federation, also welcomed the outcome. He said , “The FDF warmly welcomes this morning’s news that the European Commission is to recommend to the European Council that Brexit talks should now proceed to stage two. We look forward to seeing the detail of what has been agreed on citizens’ rights and on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; both issues of critical concern to food and drink manufacturing.
“Time remains desperately short. We call for swift progress not only on future trade relations between the UK and EU but most importantly on the detail of a transition period. This must maintain the status quo so businesses have the certainty they need.”
Dairy UK said the joint agreement on the rights of EU and UK citizens residing in the UK and in other member states and a framework for ensuring there will be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland were “vitally important steps in the right direction”.
Dr Judith Bryans, chief executive of Dairy UK said, “We are very pleased that progress has been made on these important issues, so that the all-important talks on trade can begin. We have continued to stress how important ensuring there remains no border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is to the dairy industry supply chain, which requires the transportation of raw milk and other products across the border without tariff or administrative barriers.
“We also welcome the commitment to protect the East-West border, as it is crucial there remains regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and Great Britain so trade can continue freely within the UK. This is important for a number of reasons, including avoiding an undue burden of regulation for businesses within the UK, and because dairy and meat from NI make an important contribution to food on shelf in GB.
“The dairy industry in the UK also relies on continuous access to labour. The progress on the rights of EU citizens is very welcome but there is a great deal more work to be done in this area to ensure that our industry can move into the post-Brexit era with confidence.
“The UK dairy industry is strategically important for the nation. What we need now is greater detail and clarity on our future relationship with the EU in the transition period and beyond, so that the dairy industry has both certainty and stability in which to do business. We are ready and willing to continue providing information on Brexit and trade to Government, to ensure we achieve the optimum outcome for the dairy industry.”
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