The United Kingdom is a strategically important trading partner for the Irish agri-food sector, with 38% of total agri-food sector goods exported to the UK in 2017, and an even greater reliance on the UK market for specific sectors such as the beef industry. As such, all policy meetings relating to areas exposed to the UK in a Brexit context feature a common thread of discussion on Brexit matters.
It is the most significant challenge facing the agrifood sector at this time. Therefore, my officials and I meet on a daily basis internally, with state agencies and with representatives from the agri-food and fisheries sectors to discuss and prepare for Brexit. We also meet regularly with Ministerial colleagues and their officials, with EU Commissioners and their officials, as well as with EU counterparts
The meetings with the main industry representative organisations such as Meat Industry Ireland, and Food and Drink Industry Ireland, as well as with the farming and fishing representative organisations provide me with an opportunity to hear their concerns, to outline their challenges that the UK withdrawal from the EU will present to them and allow me and my officials update them on developments at EU level and on our preparedness measures.
Brexit is a standing agenda item on my Department's weekly Management Board meetings, where all of the necessary policy and preparedness issues are addressed. Both Minister Doyle and myself have attended Management Board meetings where we have been fully briefed on my Department's planning for a central and no-deal Brexit scenario. I and my officials are also continuing to meet with my EU counterparts in key Member States to ensure they are fully aware of Ireland's concerns about the impact of Brexit on the agri-food sector.
Brexit is also a standing item on the agenda for the regular High Level Committee meetings which oversee the implementation of the FoodWise 2025 programme.
In addition, I and my officials have had a range of bilateral meetings with Commissioner Hogan, with other EU Commissioners, with the Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and with Commission officials to apprise them of Ireland's key 'asks' of the Brexit negotiations and to apprise them of the impacts Brexit will have on the sector.
Finally, myself and my officials are in regular discussion with Cabinet colleagues and their officials to discuss developments and strategies around Brexit as part of the 'whole of Government' response to Brexit.