Stormont Executive needed at talks on post Brexit border

Efficient routes to export are crucial for the industry says Michael Bell of NIFDA, pictured at an event with John Hood, left, of Invest NI and William Thompson, then agri manager Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland
Efficient routes to export are crucial for the industry says Michael Bell of NIFDA, pictured at an event with John Hood, left, of Invest NI and William Thompson, then agri manager Northern Ireland, Bank of Ireland

The lack of a functioning Executive in Stormont is a matter of “extreme concern” as the future nature of the border post Brexit is discussed the leading agri-food body in the province has said.

Responding to the rexit Position Paper released by the UK Government this week, Michael Bell, the executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA), said it was crucial that the province be represented at the negotiations by people with a close understanding of theprovince and the issues.

“Given the potential significance of this paper for trade, we remain extremely concerned that the region most affected by these negotiations is not adequately represented at the negotiating table,” he said.

“We once again call on all political parties to work together to restore the local Executive and provide people and business in Northern Ireland with the political representation they deserve at this critical time.

Mr Bell said the association was fully in support of the aim to preserve a seamless, frictionless, open border between the two jurisdictions.

“The deeply integrated nature of the agri-food sector between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain means that a practical solution to the border issue is in the best interests of all parties and should be prioritised as such,” he said.

“We note with interest that a position paper focusing specifically on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is to be compiled and look forward to its earliest publication.”

Those issues, he said, remained imperative as the most important industry in the province prepared for further expansion through new trade deals with other countries.

“For example, the recently announced deal to export NI pork to China will require continued access to EU labour, upon which our agri-food sector has become significantly reliant on,” said Mr Bell.

“We are working closely with our colleagues in the Food and Drink Federation and Food and Drink Ireland to ensure that the unique trading relationships between Northern Ireland, the UK and the Republic Ireland can continue to grow and prosper during the period of Brexit negotiations and beyond.

“We look forward to seeing the principles outlined in this document being developed into practicable, workable solutions in the months ahead. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the singular importance of the agri-food industry to the economy here and will continue to work with relevant parties to ensure the future growth of our vibrant agri-food sector.”