Dairy farmers reject no-deal Brexit option

If the United Kingdom divorces from the European Union without an agreed deal, it could be disastrous for farmers in Northern Ireland.

Farmers in all sectors recognize the implications a no-deal Brexit could bring and are urging Prime Minister Theresa May to ensure that scenario is avoided.

More than 800 million litres of milk flow across the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland each year. If a hard border was established after a no-deal Brexit, this cross-border trade would be finished and cause heavy financial losses on all sides.

Charlie Weir milks about 600 cows in Waringstown, County Down, in Northern Ireland and sells his milk to Strathroy for processing. Weir initially voted to leave the European Union, but said he would need clearer, factual information if he were to vote leave again in another referendum.

“Dairy farmers are already struggling to make a profit and cannot afford to take any more hits,” said Weir. “A no-deal situation would really hit the beef and sheep sectors bad here in Northern Ireland, mostly because if a hard border emerged then export tariffs would paralyze those sectors.

He said the dairy industry in Northern Ireland could be in a position to survive if more milk went to the British mainland, and they could also become more sustainable if they used more liquid milk and other dairy products of their own, rather than relying on imports.

If a hard border comes into force as outlined under proposals if a Brexit deal cannot be reached, than any exports or imports fall under World Trade Organization rules, and that could mean that milk would face a 40 percent export tariff.

“We would lose a lot of trade in the milk powder markets if tariffs were introduced. No one wants a hard border here under any circumstances,” said Weir.

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