Fears Protocol Bill could turn sour for dairy farmers

DAIRY farmers in Fermanagh and the rest of the North could be on the precipice of collapse if the Tory Government gets its way on the Protocol Bill.
The stark warning has come from Damien McGennity of Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) who himself is a farmer.
This Bill, which is now up for debate in the House of Lords having been passed through the House of Commons, is designed to override the very same NI Protocol that the Tory Government themselves negotiated with the EU and signed in 2019.
However, owing to a backlash from sections of their own party as well as the DUP and UUP, the Tories have put forward this Bill which the EU has threatened legal action over for breach of International Law.
If this bill becomes law, the current NI Protocol that allows free trade between the North and the Republic would halt with a number of strict EU checks being put in place. A move that could jeopardise the future of many industries in the North – including dairy farming.
McGennity said: “It’s no secret that the dairy industry is in the front line. People either don’t want to acknowledge this or believe that it could happen. But milk from farms in the North cannot and will not travel south in the event of this Act being brought into law.
“This is because at a regional level, Northern Ireland cannot guarantee that there is not, for example, grain that has been brought in that doesn’t meet EU rules.
“If you’re a buyer of Irish dairy products and you’re in China, the USA or Germany, you’re not going to take the risk of buying product from Ireland that has ingredients in it that does not meet EU rules.
“It’s a crazy outcome that will hugely affect thousands of dairy farmers and all the associated businesses.
“I’m a farmer myself and it was explained to me that if I had animals in the South and I was feeding them in the South with meal bought in the North, that would not be allowed.
“If your milk is not collected – and there are 800million litres that are bought by companies in the South every year – dairy farmers here are going to face a huge reduction in price overnight.
“The dairy farmers are on the frontline with this and the rest of the agricultural sector will be damaged as well. This Bill is a willful act of self-harm.”
McGennity fears that the hard border that was threatened in the event of a ‘no deal Brexit’ three years ago could also be enforced by this Bill.
He added: “Had there had been a no deal Brexit in 2019, the only way that border could be managed was if the majority of the crossings were closed with people filtering through larger crossing points.
“Fermanagh, as an example, would have people having to drive 25-miles to go and see relatives over the border whereas the journey would have been two miles beforehand.
“The Protocol is there to keep those crossing points open with the checks in Larne and Belfast being there to protect us from unregulated products that would threaten and risk that overland border having to be hardened.
“The Brexiteers of the Tory party do not want any part of the UK – namely us in Northern Ireland – to be a success because we have unfettered access to the EU. it shows the failure of the economy in other regions of the UK and the failure of Brexit as well.”

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