ADDRESSING the Seanad Special Select Committee on the UK Withdrawal from the European Union, Macra na Feirme national president, James Healy, from Donoughmore, proposed a six-pack of priorities to reduce the impact of Brexit on young farmers and young people living in rural Ireland.
Mr Healy outlined the organisation’s suggested solutions, including:
· Maintaining the strongest possible trading relationships with the UK post-Brexit
· Securing as favourable UK market access as possible and sufficient resources to identify new markets for Irish agri-business products
·All-island approach to animal health and environment; access to the European Globalisation Fund for upskilling
·Increasing spaces in Irish third levels to compensate for an expected increase in places due to reduction in access to UK universities
·Maintaining the CAP budget at European level
The Macra president said that ‘Maintaining the UK inside the customs union post-Brexit should be redline issue for the Irish Government. Keeping the UK inside the customs union ensures that EU regulations continue without tariffs, duties or regulatory change.
‘In the event this is unattainable, then the Irish government must lobby for a period of transition, where the UK remains within the customs union during any protracted exit negotiations beyond 2019. Temporary membership to the customs union would allow for the appropriate time to be dedicated to developing a full and comprehensive trade agreement.’
On the issue of potential increased pressure on third level places, James Healy said possible travel restrictions and a reduction in EU research opportunities in the UK, could have a positive impact for Irish Higher Education Institutes in their efforts to attract international students. This would result in non-EU students from Asia and the Middle East availing of the opportunity to study in an English speaking nation such as Ireland.
He said provisions need to be put in place to allow Irish universities, colleges and institutes of technology cope with the potential increase in demand for agri courses. However, any rise in international students must not displace opportunities for Irish students to avail of study opportunities.
On the impact Brexit could have on the CAP budget, Mr Healy warned for agriculture to remain vibrant, we need young people to see farming as a viable career: ‘
If young farmers believe they will be washed away with the first crisis they encounter, they won’t risk entering the industry. It is crucial that the EU continues to support young farmers by maintaining the funding currently directed towards them to ensure their ability to develop and expand their businesses.’
In conclusion, James Healy said the delegation from Macra requested members of the Oireachtas to sign off on an increase in Irish Government contributions to the EU budget to sustain the CAP budget and buffer young farmers and rural youth from the effects of a decision not of their making.