Northern Irish Farmer: Johnson Gave Us A “Botched-Up Deal”

It has been reported that in the event of a No Deal Brexit, Northern Irish businesses will have access to the EU Single Market tariff-free. The Scotsman has reported that the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, said, Mr Gove responded: “For more than a year now since the conclusion of the withdrawal agreement, people have been aware of the Northern Ireland protocol and that Northern Ireland is there to recognise the unique position Northern Ireland finds itself as the only part of the United Kingdom with a land border with the EU. And obviously all of us are very well aware of the 22 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the peace that has taken route there.” As a No Deal Brexit becomes much more likely, it is important to address the concerns of businesses, such as those within the agricultural industry.

Until last year, the UK was a member of the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP), which had provided farmers subsidies that manifested through the Single Farm Payment. These subsidies will end after Brexit has been finalised. Declan McCloskey, a cattle, sheep and poultry farmer in Loughgiel, Co. Antrim, has discussed his concern regarding the future of single farm payments. Mr McCloskey said, “We shouldn’t be any more worse off other than if the EU subsidies stopped coming. If the UK kept paying the EU subsidies into the Northern Ireland farmer, I don’t know how that’s going to pan out. We’re going to be stuck in limbo. Nobody wants to pay the Northern Ireland farmer.” When asked about the future of Northern Irish farmers who depended on Single Farm Payments, Mr McCloskey said, “In 2021, there’s a commitment for Northern Ireland farmers still to get a similar Single Farm Payment albeit it would be paid by the UK Government. That’s in 2021. In 2022, that’s a completely different ball game. But that was going to be different all over Europe anyway.” Mr McCloskey has highlighted that a completely new scheme was underway as of 2022, but he has further expressed concern over whether the payment scheme will be operating in that year. Mr McCloskey said, “These schemes could take a bit of time to get argued out and agreed on, and they can’t implement it unless it is agreed upon by mid-year, July-August I would say to have it in place for 2022.”

(Photo Credits: Darach O’Mullan)

Whilst the prospect of a No Deal Brexit has been lingering over many in the farming community across the UK, Mr McCloskey has understood that from a Northern Irish standpoint that a No Deal Brexit may not have a large impact on the Northern Irish farming industry. He said, “I don’t know whether a No Deal will have a while impact on Northern Irish farmers. We’re separate from the UK as agriculture is concerned anyway. We’re still linked to Europe. So we actually have the best of both worlds. We have access to the European market, we have access to the UK market. I would have

thought that a No Deal Brexit would have a bigger impact on the Southern farmer, as a lot of his beef and cattle goes into the UK market, and that could possibly have an impact on us too, I suppose. It’s hard to know what way it will go. I still think a No Deal Brexit will have not as much of an impact on us as it will on the UK farmer.”

As with many other farmers in Northern Ireland, there has been constant confusion between the finalised deals underwent by both the May and Johnson Governments and their plans to support Northern Irish farmers after Brexit. When asked over whether he was satisfied by Boris Johnson’s Brexit Deal, Mr McCloskey said, “The Brexit Deal that he has now, I don’t think it is as good as Theresa May’s Deal. It has gone back and forward, back and forward and so on. He has ended up with a botched-up deal that will mean that the UK farmer will not be well off. Having said that, that is what they voted for. It is probably a more hard-line Brexit that will suit a lot more of the hard-liners. With that being said, I don’t see how that’ll be of any favour or benefit to the UK farmer with the Deal that he has negotiated.”

(Photo Credits: Darach O’Mullan)

Mr McCloskey was asked whether he believed that it was better remaining in the EU or was he satisfied with the current arrangements put in place. He said, “Well with the way we are at the minute, with all intents and purposes, we still are in the EU. We’re still abiding by EU rules and regulations, we have access to the Southern market, there’s not going to be a Hard Border, so milk, beef and lamb all can still travel South. It isn’t going to affect our trade in that way. So, as far as that goes, I can’t see how the Brexit Deal is going to leave us any worse off.”