‘People are starting to get jittery’: Brexit nerves grow among border farms

Farmers and agribusinesses on both sides of the Northern Irish border are getting increasingly concerned as a no-deal Brexit looks more and more likely.

One dairy farmer – PJ McMonagle from Co. Donegal who supplies Tyrone processor Strathroy Dairies – spoke to RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland today (Thursday, January 31).

“It’s getting to the stage now that it’s frightening; because nobody knows what’s out there – will we have a Brexit? Or are we going to have a hard border?

“People are starting to get jittery wondering are we going to go back to a hard border.

“Sitting down at nights and putting a few bits of paper together and saying ‘right, if milk can’t go out can I go here?’ Numbers down, can I contact this person, can I contact that- more or less in the case of an emergency. Because that’s what it’s going to be.

There are colleagues of mine across there that voted to leave the EU – now they’re wishing they hadn’t.

PJ McMonagle: “Our milk is fresh going to Strathroy; if that lorry has to sit at the border for two or three hours waiting to get through, that milk is going to start to go off.

“We talk about it most nights; it’s the first thing – what are we going to do?”.

Morning Ireland also heard from Strathroy director Rory Cunningham, who also expressed his concerns.

“This is where the milk is collected from the farms north or south. We’re here too long; we’ve too many people employed that are too important to us.

We’ve too many suppliers that we don’t want to let down, too many customers that we need to get milk to.

The topic of building a second processing plant in the Republic of Ireland was discussed.

“Straight away – we’re only going to have the same amount of business – we’re going to double our costs. It’d make us uncompetitive; it’d take business out of Omagh – it’s not something we want to look at. If it comes to it – yes, we’ll do it.”

Dr. Vivienne Grave, of Queens University Belfast, dismissed the notion of a “technological border” for animal produce and livestock.

We’re talking about requirements of checking that are much higher than for manufacturing goods – each consignment has to be checked.

“So it means each truck full of lambs has to be checked. It has to undergo identification and physical checks. These cannot be done by technology.”