A senior official in the Republic of Ireland (Eire) Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says his country is puzzled and saddened by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.
Peter Ryan, newly arrived in the last two weeks, told Rural News the world market for agri foods is growing. And as NZ and Ireland have both transformed their agricultural sectors, there is scope for more collaboration.
“Yes we are competitors, but most countries in the world are competing with each other,” Ryan says. “I think a lot more could be done to find more areas of collaboration.
“The milk quotas were lifted a couple of years ago, adding impetus to the Irish dairy sector. There is absolutely no reason why Irish and NZ companies couldn’t work together in third markets.”
Ryan says Ireland was delighted to have a big NZ presence at its National Ploughing Championships this year, hence many Irish companies visit Fieldays at Mystery Creek.
“You will see a lot more of that and a lot more people coming and looking at start-ups in the ag tech sector.”
He says Ireland will retain unfettered access to the European market when Britain leaves next year. Ryan believes there is a place in Ireland for NZers to come and feel comfortable and quickly get the lie of the land, just as the Irish are welcomed in NZ.
And Irish universities and institutions will retain access to EU research funds after March 2019 (Brexit), whereas Britain won’t, Ryan says.
“So there is a huge opportunity to further cement the already flourishing links between our universities, especially in agriculture. It ‘s obvious to me that a lot more can be done in this area.
“We like to think we punch above our weight in the way that NZ does. So we have a lot to learn from each other.”
Ryan says Brexit is a big issue for the Irish, especially the issue of retaining the ‘soft’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Despite the deadline for Britain’s exit from the EU being only six months away, his government is confident the soft border will remain.
“The British government, as you know, is a co-guarantor of the 1998 Good Friday agreement and is also committed to avoiding the reintroduction of that hard border,” Ryan adds. “If you look at the history of Europe, you see that a number of times negotiations have gone right to the wire.
“Our deputy prime minister says at least 80% of the issues on Brexit have been addressed and they are down now to couple of core issues; one of them happens to affect our Ireland. We are very confident that with goodwill and vision a workable solution will be found.”