Ireland must stay in the European Union post-Brexit, and the Government must ensure that workers, consumers and communities continue to benefit from protections set down in European law, according to IMPACT deputy general secretary Kevin Callinan.
Speaking at a major union event on Brexit and the food and agriculture sector today (Thursday), Kevin rejected suggestions that Ireland should follow Britain out of the EU in order to remain competitive.
“To panic in this way would be a mistake, not least because of advantages that EU membership has bought to workers, consumers and communities in this country, in areas as diverse as food standards, equal opportunities, health and safety, and indeed financial investment.
“Neither do we want to follow Britain in a race to reduce the protections that improve our lives and our communities. We need to maintain these standards, as well as our access to the single market and to the other 57 markets it allows us to reach,” he said.
He said the Irish Government needed to up its game on investment to help agriculture and other sectors in the Brexit firing line.
“Over the last week, we have seen IBEC and the National Competitiveness Council come round strongly to the view, long articulated by IMPACT, that we need to up our game in terms of investment in housing, education, children, and infrastructure. This is welcome because the Brexit challenge underscores this imperative,” he said.
Kevin was speaking at an event called ‘Hard cheese: Brexit, jobs and standards in the food and agriculture sector,’ which was organised by IMPACT, Siptu and the trade union Charter Group.
More than any other sector, jobs and communities supported by the food and agriculture industry are at risk from the fall-out of Brexit. The sector employs over 167,000 people and accounts for almost 10% of employment in the Republic, where it sources almost three-quarters of its raw materials and services from local businesses. Over 40% of its exports are sold in Britain and Northern Ireland.