EU brexit one use

Brexit: one of the biggest decisions the UK has faced will come to a head on June 23 as we vote on whether or not to stay in the EU.

Many have warned of the potential ramifications for the UK’s food and drink industry, from an increase in labour costs to weakening sectors. So what is Northern Ireland’s take on the situation?

“I am 100% against Brexit. I am absolutely astounded at some of our more recognisable MPs who are driving it right across the UK,” exclaims Martin Hamilton, Mash Direct director. “It will make for very difficult trading arrangements between European states.”

Fear over lost trade and difficulty exporting goods is a prevalent one. “Our trade relationships around the world all depend on EU membership and this idea that we could suddenly leave and replicate trade arrangements quickly is unlikely,” believes David Dobbin, Dale Farm group CEO. “Our biggest fear is we would lose the certainty we have right now in exchange for hope where there is no guarantee of success.”

Dairy companies are undoubtedly nervous about the move, particularly following research by the NFU that found Brexit could see farmgate prices in sectors including meat and dairy pushed down.

michael murphy

But there’s also a heavy dose of scaremongering, according to Irwin’s Bakery CEO Michael Murphy (pictured), and you’ve got a confused picture. “A lot of the emotions for leaving, and staying, are misplaced,” Murphy says. “In Northern Ireland we’ve got scaremongering that there’ll be trade borders between the North and South, meaning we’ll need export permits to cross the border. Eighty per cent of the agri-food produced in the South goes outside the country and the UK is the biggest importer of Irish food so why would the southern government put trade borders up with us?

“My fear is the vote will be swayed not by what is right and wrong but more so by immigration policy and things we see on TV.”