Speaking at the National Food Industry Summit in Dublin today, FDF director-general Ian Wright CBE will say:
“Last week, Michel Barnier was here in Dublin. He gave a measured and impressive speech to the Houses of the Oireachtas. He said, “The agricultural and energy sectors are fully interconnected on the island of Ireland”. He was right, but might have gone even further – in food and agriculture, the UK and the Republic of Ireland are joined at the hip. This is not simply about the ability of finished goods to cross a non-existent border. Supply chains across food and drink are deeply complex. Ingredients and raw materials cross the border multiple times, with value being added on both sides before we even get to the movement of finished goods.
“And this goes well beyond commerce. Many Irish food and drink businesses have large operations in the UK; sometimes larger than their Irish operations. Likewise, many UK and Irish businesses manage the UK and Republic of Ireland as a single territory. Ownership and participation of so many businesses melds north and south, east and west. These are two of the most integrated economies of any separate nations in the world. Not surprising given our shared, if often confrontational history. As well as deep-seated trading ties there are long-established bonds of friendship and collaboration across the Irish sea too. Just because we cannot put a monetary value on the cultural closeness of our agri-food businesses does not mean we can afford to damage it.
“In a few weeks the UK will elect a government and the formal business of negotiating Brexit can begin. In the last nine months the hard work of the people in this room, and of the FDF and others in the UK, have not only put the issue of the Irish border onto the Brexit agenda but have pushed it right up to the top. That’s where it belongs and where it deserves to be. Now it is time for the negotiators’ actions to match their rhetoric and our shared hopes.”