A DELEGATION led by Mid-Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone has travelled to Dublin to discuss concerns for the agri-food sector with the Irish government.
The SDLP agriculture spokesperson said he was pleased to receive assurances from Irish farm minister Michael Creed that the EU-27 remain committed to a “backstop” scenario to prevent a hard border returning to the island of Ireland after Brexit.
The delegation said that without a backstop to underpin the progress of the Good Friday Agreement and the economic progress and business development it has delivered, the agri-food sector would face an extreme threat.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr McGlone commented: “We are pleased to have had a very detailed and comprehensive meeting with Minister Creed concerning the threat to the sector here in the North, which unlike the sector in Britain, is unique.
“Farms across the North are extremely dependent on the Common Agriculture Policy that provide 83 per cent of financial support for farms here. As Brexit looms, the financing of farming is under extreme threat, as too is the interdependent relationship between the North and South, if the Irish backstop is not upheld.
“Likewise, without an all-weather backstop, labour supply issues in the hospitality and food processing industries will face unprecedented pressures, with no measures or policies in place to mitigate the shortfall.
“Assurances by Minister Creed, who today reiterated in the strongest possible terms the long held position by the EU that there will be no movement on the backstop position as agreed last December in the interests of protecting the social and economic livelihood of the island of Ireland, is extremely welcomed.
“The SDLP have long understood that more than any other industry, farming requires certainty. We would urge those intent on dragging the North out of the single market and customs union to consider the irreparable damage they will cause to the agri-food sector across Ireland.”