Major report on EU exit finds significant risk for NI farmers

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Politicians in Westminster have published a report examining what may happen to Northern Ireland specifically in the event of the UK leaving the EU.

The report – by MPs from the cross-party Northern Ireland Affairs Committee – laid out a number of actions which the UK government would need to deal with urgently in the event of a ‘leave’ vote on June 23.

One of the key areas the report looks at is farming.

It says that the Treasury has drawn up a series of scenarios for farmers if the UK votes to leave – including the possibility of tariffs being introduced on agricultural produce.

The report states: “Tariffs on the scale of those currently imposed by the EU under the WTO’s [World Trade Organisations] Most-Favoured Nation conditions would be hugely damaging to Northern Ireland farmers.

“Trade within the UK would be enhanced if substantial tariffs on EU imports into GB were put in place, but exporters in sectors such as dairy would be badly affected, especially in the context of a continued global oversupply.

“Agreeing a free trade deal that includes agriculture would need to be a priority for the UK Government in the event of a Brexit. That deal would need to recognise that the profile of agriculture in Northern Ireland is different from the UK as a whole and should include tariff-free exports of dairy and beef.”

The report also looks at the question of how the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland border would be policed.

It stated: “There must be doubts about the extent to which, in the event of a Brexit, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could be effectively policed and the disruption to those who cross the border for work or study would be considerable.

“However, imposing security checks for those travelling between parts of the UK would also be highly undesirable. In the event of a Brexit, an arrangement that maintains a soft land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic but which does not see restrictions imposed on travel within the UK would need to be a priority.”

Committee chairman Laurence Robertson said in a statement accompanying the release: “As a committee, we were concerned that people in Northern Ireland were perhaps not as exposed to the details involved in this referendum as we would wish, especially when faced with opposing claims and frightening statistics on a daily basis.

“We launched this inquiry to help the people of Northern Ireland get a better understanding of how the choice to leave or remain could affect their day-to-day lives, as well as the overall direction of the Province.

“Our intention was not to promote either argument—we have MPs on the committee from both camps—but to indicate what the significant effects of leaving the EU could be, what outcomes we can be sure of, and what we do not know.”

Many Northern Ireland-based MPs sit in the committee.

Its membership is as follows: Laurence Robertson MP, Tom Blenkinsop MP, Oliver Colvile MP, Mr Nigel Evans MP, Mr Stephen Hepburn MP, Lady Hermon MP, Kate Hoey MP, Danny Kinahan MP, Jack Lopresti MP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP, Nigel Mills MP, Ian Paisley MP and Gavin Robinson MP.