NI Farm Groups raises key issues

Michael Clarke, of NIAPA, pictured with William Taylor, FFA, Colette FitzGerald, EU Commission, Sean McAuley, FFA and Alec Scullin, NIAPA
Michael Clarke, of NIAPA, pictured with William Taylor, FFA, Colette FitzGerald, EU Commission, Sean McAuley, FFA and Alec Scullin, NIAPA

Farmers For Action and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA) have come together to raise awareness of three developing issues for Northern Ireland agriculture.

Representatives of the group recently met the Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, Mrs Colette FitzGerald, to deliver clear messages on Brexit, free trade deals and legislation on farm gate prices.

A spokesman for the groups explained: “On Brexit the two organisations are agreed and firmly put the case to the EU Commission representative that come what may with Brexit there must be no North-South border, such are the fears of all concerned of where that could lead.

“Free Trade deals are now the buzz words in Brussels and Westminster. The EU is currently putting a huge effort into Mercursor and other major world trade deals and the UK Government is bending over backwards to prepare free trade deals around the world in order to be ready the day after it leaves the EU.

“NI Farm Groups told Mrs FitzGerald that neither the EU nor the current Westminster Government can complete free trade deals where commonly produced staples by current or potential new free trade deals partners end up in food swaps, as this makes a complete nonsense of the Paris climate change agreement and those who participated.

“On the case for legislation on farm gate prices, NI Farm Groups made it clear that whether we eventually leave the EU or not, currently the EU is not delivering on its treaty promises – that rural dwellers should be properly rewarded for their work.

“In short, when the market is not working then clearly there is a case for state intervention thus NI Farm Groups’ work is ongoing to have a legislation bill complete and ready for Stormont as soon as it returns.

Colette FitzGerald, in her role as the bridge between the EU and NI EU citizens, sought to clarify the EU’s approach to the Brexit Article 50 negotiations and the time table ahead. She explained that Michel Barnier and his team will work through August to again meet David Davis and his team on the 28th August, after which Mr Barnier will prepare a report on the state of negotiations for the next meeting of the European Council (Heads of State) in October 2017.

At this point the Member States will judge whether enough progress has been made on the ‘divorce’ settlement to begin to plan discussions on the UK’s future relationship with the EU after Brexit. The eventual Brexit deal must be completed by end March 2019 although in practice, it would need to be done months earlier to allow individual Member States to ratify it so that means time is pressing for the actual negotiations.

No one Member State can veto any final deal as it can be approved by a majority of Member States representing at least 65% of EU citizens. The European Parliament will also have a vote. Any extension to this March 2019 deadline is only possible if all the EU27 agree to do so.

Colette FitzGerald explained that an important part of her role is to make regular, indeed daily reports to Brussels and would include Northern Ireland Farm Groups concerns.