As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with special responsibility for Brexit, Minister Coveney has responsibility for coordinating the whole-of-Government response to Brexit. In this capacity, he is working closely with his colleagues across Government and state agencies to address the many challenges resulting from Brexit, providing their research, analysis and overall policy input to the Government’s wider response to Brexit, including its priorities for the ongoing Article 50 negotiations between the EU and the UK.
However, every effort will continue to be made to ensure that the implications for the agrifood and fisheries sectors are fully taken account of, and that there will be as close alignment as possible with the current trade models. Ireland’s key tasks in this regard will continue to be: continued free access to the UK market, without tariffs and with minimal additional customs and administrative procedures; minimisation of the risk from UK trade agreements with third countries; and maintenance of current access to fishing grounds in the UK zone in the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and north of Donegal and protection of Ireland’s quota shares.
As the outcome of the negotiations is not yet known, an important focus of the planning and preparation being undertaken through these structures is on deepening the Government’s analysis and understanding of the exact consequences of a range of different possible scenarios. This represents an intensification of efforts to build on the Government‘s contingency planning.
In line with this whole-of-Government work, my Department has conducted a range of analysis and research activities in relation to Brexit. This work is ongoing, and is primarily concerned with the implications of Brexit for agrifood trade with the UK across different sectors.
For example, both internally and in consultation with the relevant stakeholders through the Brexit Stakeholder Consultative Committee and the All-Island Civic Dialogue process, my Department has established the extent of the seafood industry’s reliance on the UK market, the potential implications of Brexit and the possible responses to the challenges presented. It has also been analysing the potential practical impact on the day-to-day functioning of trade flows, as well as potential WTO tariffs that might be applied to Ireland's seafood exports to the UK in the event of a 'hard' Brexit. The WTO tariffs for our top 18 seafood exports to the UK range from 2% to 25% with an average of approximately 12%. However, it is important to remember that the UK only accounted for 13% of Ireland’s seafood exports in 2016 and an estimated 10% of Ireland’s seafood exports in 2017.