Last Thursday’s unexpected result in the UK General Election has once again uprooted any certainty we had with regard to Brexit.
Having lost seats and therefore in many ways, lost their mandate, there is a need for the UK Conservative Party to rethink its plans on Brexit. The negotiations, set to begin next week, are likely to be delayed and Theresa May’s minority government are in a much more unstable position than ever before and relying on the support of Northern Ireland’s DUP and the new influence of Scottish Conservatives, both of whom favour a softer stance on Brexit.
Certainly the outcome presents an opportunity for Ireland Inc, and it appears much more likely that there will be a more “Business Friendly Brexit” now, than before the Election, with the possibility of the UK maintaining access to the Customs Union or even the Single Market, following their exit.
However, Brexit is still very much on the horizon, and hard or soft, Irish co-operative businesses will still be faced with a number of unprecedented challenges following the UK’s exit. Key issues such as an economic slowdown in the UK and Ireland, the possibility of customs controls and increased administrative burdens, increased third country competition and a reduction in the CAP budget, remain a deep concern. If we have seen and learnt anything from the last year dealing with the fallout from the UK’s June 2016 referendum on EU membership, it’s that everything is uncertain and can change entirely overnight.
With it looking like we are in store for a roller-coaster ride over the next few years, Irish co-operatives must continue to prepare for the worst possible outcome. ICOS in turn will continue to push the concerns of the Irish agri-food industry to the fore on a National and European level, and to focus on our key priorities of maintaining tariff free access to the UK market, protecting the UK market premium and minimising border controls and administration costs under any new trading relationship.
By Alison Graham & Eamonn Farrell
28 May 2021