'Brexit will hit Tipperary food and drink industries very hard'

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune raises her Brexit concerns on visit to Clonmel. 

Dylan White


Dylan White



Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune says there is a great deal of awareness about Brexit on the ground in Tipperary.

Speaking to The Nationalist, Clune admits that despite “everything being up in the air” with Brexit, the Tipperary public understand what the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union means for Ireland. “People know it’s going to be bad because we depend on that economy for our exports. It's the uncertainty of Brexit that concerns the public,” Clune says.

Clune emphasises her concerns for Ireland’s food and drink industries. “The UK is our largest exporter for food and drink products and we really depend of their market. Companies have their relationships built up over the years and it’s very, very, very hard for them. Time, money and certainty is important to them”.

Clune feels transport could be a problem after Brexit, unless the UK is in a customs union. “The quickest way onto the continent is across the Irish Sea, through the UK and across Dover-Calais. That could mean potentially four checkpoints, which is a real concern.

“At the moment the UK is part of the European airspace. There's an agreement in place where we have the same airspace and operate to the same standards. If the UK move out the airlines are saying that unless some arrangement is put in place they cannot fly because you can’t fly in airspace you are not registered in”.

Clune is currently working on a transport file that focuses on the working conditions of truck drivers who travel across the continent to make a living. “There is a working time directive in place where they have adequate rest periods, but that is being revised at the moment. We want to introduce electronic tachographs in the trucks to protect drivers and other road users as well.

“There is a big push on from companies, particularly in Eastern Europe, where the cab driver sleeps in the cab because it can be comfortable or they want to keep moving, but that has to be looked at too. We are trying to develop safe and secure parking spots across Europe.

“It’s very important for Ireland because when you start off from Clonmel - by the time you go on the boat at Rosslare or Dublin - it could be 24 hours before you get to your destination. We have to build that time in and make sure that time on a ferry isn’t considered transport time. It’s important for Irish hauliers because we export so much of our food and drink products by truck,” Clune continues.

Clune underlines that the future of Europe is currently dominating affairs at the European Parliament. “We are slap bang in the middle of Europe, our future is in Europe and that’s where we want to be. But there are questions now about terrorism and how we are going to protect our citizens. We have seen it across the water in Manchester, London and Barcelona. The only way we can deal with it is to work with other countries, share intelligence and information and that involves an element of trust in other member states. It's a big concern. 

“The whole area of cyber security can only be dealt with on an international basis as well. And migration is something that we don't hear about in this country, but there is huge pressure on countries such as Malta, Spain, Greece and Italy  - a lot of refugees are arriving from Africa in particular and they are responsible for them. There is more pressure now for other countries to share the burden - we want them to understand how difficult Brexit is for us and in return they want us to help them. We have agreed and participate in a refugee sharing programme, but the problem is still there and it's difficult for those countries,” she adds.