Northern Ireland

Brexit: Extra no-deal funding possible for agrifood firms

Northern Ireland border Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Agrifood businesses play a key role in Northern Ireland's economy

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has suggested the Northern Ireland agrifood sector could receive extra financial support in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson had asked him about the impact of the government's no deal-plan for the Irish border.

It will mean that goods from the Republic of Ireland can continue to enter Northern Ireland tariff free.

However, NI goods going in the other direction will face tariffs.

The UK government has said it made the decision as part of its promise not to harden the border.

It has been met with dismay by farmers and food producers, who say it will put them at a major competitive disadvantage.

Speaking at the House of Commons Brexit Committee, Mr Wilson asked if the government had plans to "compensate" Northern Ireland producers in that scenario.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Government officials say it is crucial that agri-food businesses are prepared, especially for a no-deal Brexit

Mr Gove said "extra consideration" was being given to the needs of the agrifood sector and the wider Northern Ireland economy.

Meanwhile, Mr Gove was asked if the no-deal border plan was compliant with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The most important WTO principle is that members do not discriminate.

In other words, if zero tariffs are applied to one member, they should be applied to all other members.

The UK government's plan of zero tariffs only on cross-border trade with Ireland would appear to conflict with that.

Mr Gove said the attorney general had advised that the specific circumstances in Northern Ireland would allow an exemption from the non-discrimination principle.

He said he would write to the committee to explain that point in more detail.

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