While ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement is still the Government's primary focus, and preparations are continuing for all scenarios, greater priority has been given for quite some time now to preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
In order to help mitigate the impacts on the sector I have introduced a number of budgetary measures over the last three years aimed at improving competitiveness, and developing market and product diversification. These include low cost loan schemes to assist in on-farm and agri business cost effectiveness, and additional funding to Bord Bia and Teagasc to support market and product diversification.
More recently, I have held bilateral discussions with Commissioner Hogan on the impact of Brexit, including in the margins of the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels last week. I again stressed the need to be ready to deploy a range of measures to mitigate the potential impacts on farmers and processors, particularly in respect of the beef sector, which will face very serious challenges in the event of the UK proceeding with the kind of tariff arrangements it announced recently. Options here include traditional market supports and exceptional aid provisions under the Common Agricultural Policy's Single Common Market Organisation regulation, as well as increased flexibility under State Aid regulations. Commissioner Hogan reiterated the EU’s readiness to respond, and we will remain in contact on these issues as the situation evolves.
In the meantime my Department, as part of the whole-of-Government approach to Brexit, has been very active in preparing for a potential no-deal Brexit. We have been working with other departments and agencies to have the necessary arrangements in place to carry out import controls at our ports and airports in order to allow the Department to fulfil its legal obligations as efficiently as possible, while also ensuring the minimum possible disruption to trading arrangements.
We have also sharpened our communications to include an enhanced Brexit page on the Department’s website, the circulation of focused Trader Notices to the individual agri sectors, the establishment of a Brexit Call Centre and increased use of social media.