WHILE claims that 45,000 dairy cows in the North would be at risk of a cull in a ‘no-deal’ Brexit have been downplayed, a West Tyrone MLA has warned that the farming industry on both sides of the border is facing up to a “doomsday scenario”.
BBC Newsnight recently reported that senior industry figures were concerned that thousands of cattle in Northern Ireland would be culled if new higher tariffs were applied to British milk in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU on October 31.
But the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) subsequently dismissed the cull claims as “speculation” resulting from the continuing uncertainty around Brexit.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson said, “At this point in time, we are not even talking about a large cull of animals and we don’t anticipate that we will get to this point. In the event of ‘no-deal’, the dairy industry will find ways to cope if there is a surplus of milk, although it’s not likely to be straightforward and we would expect disruption.
“Possibly there is capacity in our local processing sector to absorb any extra milk or we may be able to send it to GB. There will be other options and it is irresponsible to jump straight to culling cows as a solution.”
But, despite downplaying talk of a cull, Mr Ferguson still stressed that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would be “catastrophic” for local farmers.
“Steep export tariffs, a zero per-cent tariff on agriculture goods coming from Republic of Ireland, increased checks and regulations will all cause huge disruption and a logistical nightmare for family-run farm businesses. We are working hard to find ways to mitigate the potential damage of ‘no-deal’,” he added.
West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer, who is Sinn Féin’s agricultural spokesman, acknowledged that the UFU had questioned the veracity of the cull claims while still highlighting that crashing out of the EU would have a “devastating” impact on farmers.
“This has been the long-standing position of the UFU but it is one that continues to be ignored by the DUP and the Tory party in their pursuit of Brexit at any cost,” Mr McAleer said.
Pointing to independent reports prepared by the Irish Institute of European Affairs (IIEA) and the Department of Economy, the local MLA claimed that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would be a “doomsday scenario” for Irish farming and all-Ireland trade.
“Despite all of this, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has made clear his determination to go ahead with a crash-out Brexit on October 31.
“He is supported and facilitated in that by the DUP who are clearly still refusing to heed the warnings of the UFU and the wider farming industry,” Mr McAleer added.