Alison Ryan, London Office, Bord Bia – Irish Food Board

Key events this week:

Jeremy Corbyn has said Brexit talks with the government are stalling because of a Conservative desire for post-withdrawal deregulation, including as part of a US trade deal. Meetings are scheduled this week between ministers and shadow ministers on environmental protection, security and workers’ rights but there will be no discussion before Easter on the big issues of a customs union or a confirmatory referendum. Corbyn underlined again that an agreement could only be reached if Theresa May was prepared to accept Labour’s central demand for a common external tariff policy with the EU.

The Democratic speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said the US Congress supports Ireland in the face of Brexit challenges, warning that Washington will not strike a UK trade deal if Britain’s withdrawal from the EU undermines the Good Friday peace deal. She stated this in speeches both in London and in Dublin this week. She’s leading a Congressional delegation on a visit to Europe. The group is also due to visit Northern Ireland, including a visit to the border area.

Theresa May has written to civil servants saying no-deal preparations must carry on despite a new October deadline for the UK’s exit from the European Union. On Friday 12 April, it emerged that the government stood down Operation Yellowhammer, its contingency planning operation for dealing with the worst-case scenarios resulting from a no-deal Brexit, after the postponement of the UK’s exit from the EU.

Labour would return 19 MEPs to Brussels in an EU election which will need to be held next month if Theresa May cannot pass her Brexit deal through parliament before May 22. The Tories would be in second with 12 seats, the Brexit party led by Mr Farage, on 10 MEPs and the UK Independence Party would be in fourth place with nine seats, according to the election result projections from the European Parliament.

Implications for Irish food & drink companies:

The immediate threat of no-deal Brexit on 12 April has been avoided. However, there is still uncertainty as to when and how the UK will leave the EU. Irish companies should continue to prepare for all Brexit possibilities in the coming months. Bord Bia’s support programmes can be found here.

Looking ahead:

  • October 31 is the new Brexit deadline.
  • The House of Commons will reconvene after the Easter break on 23 April.
  • European Parliament elections will take place on 22 May.
  • If the UK has not elected MEPs by 23 May, Britain will leave the EU on 1 June.
  • European leaders will hold a symbolic meeting in June to review the UK’s progress.