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One in every eight Irish jobs is in agriculture and food processing, or agrifood, reports CNBC. In the U.K. province of Northern Ireland, where 1.8 million people live, the agrifood industry accounts for about 70,000 local jobs.
Because of its strong market position in the U.K. – which is the destination for 37% of Irish food and drink exports – and highly integrated supply chains across both Ireland and Northern Ireland, farmers' and food processors' jobs are particularly vulnerable to any change in trade and border policy resulting from Brexit.
"One unanswered question that affects every dairy company in Northern Ireland, and indeed in the Republic of Ireland, is the market displacement. What access are we going to have post-March 2019 to those markets we have serviced for many, many years?" asked Gabriel D'Arcy, chief executive of dairy cooperative LacPatrick, whose suppliers number more than 1,050 farmers across both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has repeatedly expressed his wish that Northern Ireland remain in the European Union customs union, which would maintain the free flow of goods and people between Ireland and the UK.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), meanwhile, which is part of a confidence-and-supply deal supporting the current U.K. government, has been adamant about leaving the customs union, insisting that Northern Ireland not be treated any differently from the rest of the U.K. in any post-Brexit arrangement.
Trade talks are due for mid-December, but Ireland has threatened to veto them and hold out until 2018 if its priorities are not addressed. (Source: CNBC)
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