Ireland on the up

I thought the Bord Bia Virtual GB Trade Reception of particular interest in my flurry of webinars last week, seeing as how the UK is heading towards Brexit at high speed now, and taking Ireland, its largest trading partner, along with it.

As Adrian O’Neill, the Irish Ambassador to Great Britain and Northern Ireland (pictured) says, “There is the commitment of the Irish government to enhance our relationship across the sea, and to sustain warm and friendly relations with our neighbours. We have shared history, shared cultures and proximate geography.” Ireland is both a top exporter of agricultural products to the UK and a top importer of British products, and as such has spent the last few years planning for Brexit.

Which is good, because sometimes I don’t think the UK has been as proactive as Ireland’s government and companies on this matter. Kind of like making a cake and leaving the kitchen in a right state for someone else to clear up.

That being said, the rest of the world can’t sit there and wait. Ireland’s agri-business has been prepping for every eventuality since 2016. An estimated €1 billion of its dairy exports to the UK are at stake, as part of the total exports of €4.4 billion. The good news for Ireland is most British consumers see Irish food as the most trusted in origin outside of the UK, according to Bord Bia (the Irish food and drink agency).

Bord Bia has run readiness radars, collecting data from British companies and has found their top concerns are: UK economic performance, living with Covid-19 and Brexit. They have also been getting their domestic companies ready for the changes in regulations.

Further, US President-elect Joe Biden, whose Secret Service codename is Celtic, is moving into the White House in January. He has already been put on record as saying the Good Friday deal must stand and that hard borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic are not an option.

I think the brash politics of the last few years will give way to more sensible options, both inside and outside the UK. The calm voices that we are now hearing are acting like a balm on many people’s psyches, including mine. While the future remains unsettled, we will need them to get us through the next few months and years, and across the border from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland.

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