Up until now Brexit has meant nothing more than business as usual for Irish farmers and manufacturers, but frustrations surrounding what might happen post-October 31 came to light at this year’s Irish Ploughing Match.
Over the years, Ireland has quietly been building up an important manufacturing industry within the agricultural sector in which McHale of Co Mayo is particularly prominent.
Marketing manager Paul McHale noted plans were in place for October if there was a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “The UK is a very important market for us and we have received tremendous support from our customers and dealers. We have every intention to continue serving them whatever happens.”
This determination to continue trading with Britain was echoed by Clodagh Cavanagh, managing director of Abbey Machinery.
“Business is business and we are determined to drive on,” she said.
“The company has been involved in the UK for 40 years and it is not something we are going to give up.”
Other manufacturers were of much the same mind, although the uncertainties surrounding Brexit have been causing a good deal of frustration.
Major Equipment, also of Co Mayo, are anxious to see the UK ‘come up with a plan’, while Ken Smyth, owner of Palatine Engineering and winner of the Machine of the Year Award, said he wanted Britain ‘to get it over and done with so we all know where we stand’.
Irish farmers themselves are also concerned about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit.
A recent poll on behalf of the Irish Examiner found 80 per cent feared a negative impact on their business, while 47 per cent said they would like to see some concessions made by the Irish Government to break the impasse.
However, Joe Healey, president of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), was unequivocal about the impact of Brexit, describing it as ‘catastrophic for farmers across the island of Ireland and in mainland UK’.
Further down the organisation’s hierarchy there was concern about beef and grain prices although the situation of the former is overshadowed by the current crisis at the meat plants.
Mark Brown, chairman of the IFA’s grain council, admited that in the long-term there may be a very slight rise in prices due to the increased cost of transport from continental Europe.
Within Irish agriculture generally, there is more an air of mild bewilderment rather than outright hostility to or anger, and that is likely to remain the case until it is known what exactly is going to happen.
VIEW FROM IRELAND
THE Irish National Ploughing Championships is ostensibly centred on choosing the country’s top ploughmen, but it has grown from this humble ambition to become Europe’s largest outdoor agricultural event.
Despite this success it is still focused on agriculture and attracts a significant section of the supply industry, as well as farmers themselves.
Given such a collection of people brought together with a common interest, it might be expected that there was a wide divergence of views over Brexit, but this appeared not to be the case.
The Irish Government has itself set the tone in reflecting the Brussels line.
Overall, it is rather dismissive of the referendum and the decision by the UK Government to follow it through.
The media has also kept rank and has viewed the saga mainly through the prism of economic intentions and consequences, the border question, for instance, being generally ignored until recently.
However, this approach does not help those at ground level, the farmers and suppliers, who will be affected by the UK leaving.