Senator Mark Daly, who has left the Chamber, asked the first question and I would like to respond to that. He asked about East Germany and the wall coming down between East and West Germany. The Border Communities Against Brexit took the attitude that we have a white sheet of paper in so far as we mitigate the impact of Brexit or approach a hard Brexit being imposed on us. As a group, we have believed from the outset that having a special status means nothing unless it is a special status within Europe. Anything else is only special status outside it. I would go so far as to say that we do not accept there is any form of a Brexit other than a hard Brexit. Any soft Brexit we would view as a Brexit by stealth over the years with layers upon layers of legislation being introduced which would once again lead to a hard Brexit.
Norway has its own deal with Europe. Switzerland spent eight years trying to negotiate a deal and it has still has not finished it but it still has a deal with Europe. Cyprus, north and south, is working as one island and has Britain's biggest military presence located in the middle of the island. There is also Gibraltar, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. There are several different special designated statuses and it comes down to how we interpret it. We have the good luck of having the Good Friday Agreement. It is one of our biggest accomplishments. It is an international agreement lodged in the Hague and it is there to protect every Irish and EU citizen on this island.
We have a heavy cloak upon us as a group. We have not looked particularly any further than that, other than we know that special status is possible. It was a matter for us to highlight and we have achieved that with a special status for Northern Ireland now being talked about throughout Europe, in Britain and in Ireland. That is the first step.
There is a second step, which shows our accomplishment. Everybody who is anybody - any business, all the educational establishments and the health establishments - and all those people who have responsibility who were very quiet before the referendum are now coming out and saying they want things the way they were. It is a little late for that but not in this country because of the Good Friday Agreement. We can hold the status quo. Even though people are seeking that things will stay the way they were, some political parties, especially in the North, are saying that they want things the way they were but they want a few cherries on top. I am afraid those cherries are not there for the picking and that must be well understood.
Deputy McDowell referred to a special status for Northern Ireland and Mr. Damian McGenity more or less answered that point. The only point that was not addressed was the issue of a digital border. A digital border would still require a hub. It would involve self-regulation. A digital border cannot take cognisance of a container carrying a number of different commodities. Some of those would probably have to be checked and others would not need to be. A space for a warehouse and the parking of a lorry would be required. If a lorry with a container is carrying perishable goods and it takes two or three days to clear that container, those goods would be lost. If a customer needs a product from that container immediately, and the clearing of the container is held up for two or three days, that customer will not do business with that provider again. We have considered the issue of a digital border in many different ways and we believe there is only one place for it and that is out in the sea. We have a porous Border and it has always been like that, despite all the tools that were thrown at it to keep it in place. I have no doubt that Europe would protect its borders even more vehemently than Donald Trump would aspire to build a wall between America and Mexico. That is how much Europe values it markets. Europe will make sure that the integrity of its high-quality product, produced to a higher environmental standard and traceability, is not affected by any porous border. By that I mean, inferior product coming through a border on the one island, which would be crazy carry-on.
I am glad to see that members feel the same and are considering how that special status can come into being, in particular in terms of how it can be legally implemented, which is Senator McDowell's field of expertise. The need for special status needs to be pressed upon Westminster. As a unionist farmer who farms on the Border, I have always perceived the Good Friday Agreement as my protector and that my sources to go to were Westminster, Dublin and Europe. We have doors and avenues into all of those places. Unfortunately, to date, Stormont has muddied the waters. Certain parties decided to go over to London and take out a four-page wrap-around advert in the Metro freesheet newspaper to promote a vote for Brexit. Those parties now want things to stay the same. That beggars belief.
In terms of Senator Ó Donnghaile's question on the common travel area, CTA, I am worried that there could be a problem in terms of the common travel agreement but if there were special status for the island of Ireland to remain in the EU, that could hopefully be overcome and the CTA would certainly be let go. In a Brexit scenario involving a Border on the island, I believe Westminster would try to hold to its side of controlling immigration. At the same time, it is starting to acknowledge it needs these people to work in factories in the UK. Immigrant labour makes up 65% of the workforce in the processing industry in Northern Ireland.
In terms of the Irish Government reply, I must commend it on the seminars it has held. I attended a mind-blowing briefing on energy. I did not know anything about the way energy worked on this island. After the seminar, I felt that Brexit is a complete bonfire of money and that the President of the European Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker, was misrepresented at the dinner he went to in Downing Street at which it was said that Brexit could be nothing only bad for everybody. That statement is correct. The division of these nations will do nothing for anybody. It must be done in such a minimal way that as little money as possible is burnt. Ireland, Britain and Europe will have to work together to ensure that because everybody is going to suffer in this. It is a sad situation but it can be overcome. We want the Government to make one last effort to put the ball over the bar and come out clearly saying it is looking for a special designated status, this is how it is going to do it and to set out the parameters and a timeline as to how that will be done and how legal jargon will be brought into play. It needs to tell Westminster that it understands that the UK is leaving the EU. Ireland is a member state of the EU along with 27 others. It has international trade agreements with 60 countries. It must tell Westminster that, along with Europe, it will ensure that it is self-sufficient in energy, that it looks after its farmers, beef, milk and lamb, and the UK can leave the EU but Ireland, as an island, is firmly staying. That is the final thing we want the Government to say, whether that be the current Government or any that may succeed them.
In regard to whether we would be prepared to pay tariffs if there were an all-island status, let us look at the market for milk. The UK is about 65% self-sufficient in milk. However, two-thirds of the UK's milk exports to international countries, including Thailand in particular, are from Northern Ireland. International trade deals have been built up over the past 20 years. In 1995, milk commodity was trading at around £1.2 billion. Over 20 years, that has been built up to £2.23 billion. Dr. Mike Johnston, Northern Ireland director for Dairy UK, stated that in a Brexit situation, those he represents would be in competition with Europe and to hold those international markets, their product would have to be made sexier and more built into it. A lower price may have to be taken for it because UK producers would be competing with the EU and known EU standards and would not be able to give any standard for exports from the UK. There would be a new British standard that will not yet have been accepted by any other country. The same situation pertains for every commodity.
Mr. O'Hara will confirm that we were considering the Saudi Arabia frozen beef market. It is a big market for beef. There is already much live shipping to Turkey. There is not a huge problem in beef. Intervention could be used if Britain does not want to buy our beef. However, it should not be forgotten that Britain has always used Ireland as a bread basket and it will not be able to source the amount of beef it needs from any country but their next-door neighbour. It will therefore be knocking on our door and looking for that beef, tariff or no tariff. The lamb industry would fall off the top of a cliff. Britain has half the sheep-breeding population of Europe. It is approximately 75% self-sufficient in lamb but still exports 40% of that lamb to France. One thousand lambs per day go from the North to the South for processing and then on for export to France. After Brexit, to get 400 pence on the Rungis market, we would have to take a tariff of around 56%. Farmers in this country would achieve 226 pence, a little over half of the price in the North. Farmers here are already complaining that they are taking prices for lamb that they were taking 20 years ago.
I am not afraid to pay a tariff to Great Britain because while it is threatening that Ireland needs it as a market, I would say Britain needs Ireland as a source of food. Three million people per year get food from food banks in Great Britain. They include nurses and policemen. From where will the UK get its food? There is no guarantee from the British Government that in a Brexit situation they would look after food production sufficiently. It has said it would fund agriculture for one year post-Brexit. However, even that one year is ambiguous because it depends on the time when a claim is made. Some politicians have said that the Common Agricultural Policy was going to end in 2020 anyway. That is not correct. The current CAP reform was put in place until 2025 approximately with a mid-term review in 2017 approximately. It will be in place until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest. There is much misrepresentation of facts and figures.
I am happy to answer any questions members have. If I was mistaken in quoting any figures, I will stand corrected. We have relied on accurate figures from different sources, notably Andersons farm business consultants, which we will give them to the committee after the meeting.