Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ireland position paper raises more questions than answers

That is a general view of the Government's position paper on Ireland, but it applies particularly to agriculture. It is suggested that one option to avoid disrupting the substantial trade in food and agricultural products between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic could be 'regulatory equivalence.' The UK would agree to achieve 'the same outcome and high standards, with scope for flexibility.' Is the latter phrase some kind of get out clause?

It is difficult to see how one could negotiate trade deals with countries like the US which would want entry to the UK market for its hormone reared beef and chlorinated chicken. Such deals are supposedly one of the benefits of Brexit.

If one had a customs agreement with the EU similar to that with Turkey, it should be noted that this excludes agricultural goods. Agricultural products would then need to be checked to ensure tariffs had been paid and that there was compliance with phytosanitary standards.

I am sceptical about claims that there is a technological fix to these issues, particularly given the current clunky state of HMRC's IT systems. The logical solution would be to have a border in the Irish Sea, but that is politically unacceptable, particularly with the DUP breathing down the Government's neck.

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