West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer has expressed concern that agri-food businesses will struggle to cope with the demands for export health certificates in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“Currently the department issues around 18,000 export health certificates per year. In a no deal, this will increase to at least 1.9 million certificates, placing incredible strain on veterinary services and our ability to export produce.
“At present, there are just over 90 vets working on export certification, but demand will dramatically increase in a crash-out situation.
“It is quite clear that agri-food businesses will struggle to cope with the demands for export health certificates in the event of a no deal, crash out Brexit.
“To be eligible for an export health certificate there will be a 40-day, on-farm residency rule which will have a huge impact on farmers who purchase for slaughter and many marts in the north are not approved as export assembly centres.
“Recently we met with the DAERA Permanent Secretary, Chief Vet and senior officials at department headquarters and discussed the impact of WTO tariffs in a crash-out scenario.
“This will place a 30% tariff on dairy, 20% on lamb and coupled with the removal of the subsidy, farming will struggle to survive, which will affect all of us, not just the farming community.
“We pressed the officials on their preparations for Brexit and the need for a market intervention for farmers, given the scale of damage facing the industry and our capacity to produce food.
“The department has a command, control and co-ordination hub set up and are focussing on the keeping trade flowing in all situations. They are planning for a hard Brexit with a lot of financial turbulence.
“A crash-out Brexit will cripple agriculture and the agri-food industry in the north.
“Sinn Féin will continue to engage with the sector, lobby the department and do our best nationally, at EU level, in councils and internationally to highlight the plight that a hard Brexit would inflict on our communities.
“If we are dragged out of the EU against our will then people should be given the opportunity to vote to get back into the EU through Irish reunification.”