Brexit poses enormous challenges for the integrated all-island agri-food sectors by virtue of their exposure to the UK market. The Government is committed to ensuring no hard border on the island of Ireland in any Brexit scenario.
In advance of the Brexit deadlines of 29 March and 12 April, discussions with the Commission intensified on how we might meet our shared twin objectives of protecting the integrity of the Single Market and Ireland’s place in it, and avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland in the case of a no deal Brexit. This engagement is continuing. There are no easy answers here. A no deal Brexit will have severe economic and political implications for Ireland North and South but the backstop can fully protect the Single Market, avoid a hard border and protect the all-island economy.
I am working with my Departmental officials in a whole-of-Government effort to ensure the best possible outcome for the agri-food sector. I wish to assure the Deputy that the Government remains very focused on supporting the agri-food industry through the challenges ahead. We will be firm in arguing that any agreement reached between the EU and the UK must take account of the very serious challenges presented by Brexit for the sector, particularly given the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland and the importance of our economic relationship with the UK. And, of course, ultimately Ireland's objective in the negotiations is to have a trading relationship with the UK which is as close as possible to the current arrangements.