SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Gerry McCormack, said: “The European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions (EFFAT) together with its UK and Irish affiliates, including SIPTU, is calling on the UK Government and the EU to do whatever it takes to reach a trade deal that saves jobs and delivers for working people across our countries.
“The UK is the single largest trading partner of the EU with a total value of food and drink trade of €47.5 billion in 2018. If the UK moves to trading on World Trade Organisation terms after 2020, agri-food goods would attract the highest level of tariffs with inevitable consequences for trade levels and jobs.
“The Irish food, drink and agricultural sector is the part of the economy most reliant on cross border activity. The current arrangement between the UK and Northern Ireland with the Republic sees an estimated 360,000 people commute and millions of goods and supply chain consignments cross each year.
“A hard border between the UK and Ireland would undoubtedly disrupt and severely delay all trade and movement of people, resulting in lasting damage across all sectors of the economy.
“The Brexit process is at a watershed moment that may usher in some extremely dangerous changes, such as a hard border in Ireland, reductions in food and safety standards and create the opportunity for some employers to implement a race to the bottom in working conditions.
“EFFAT completely opposes the Internal Market Bill proposed by the UK Conservative government. Not only does the bill break international law it also puts in jeopardy the Good Friday Agreement. Any damage to this Agreement puts at-risk hard-won gains in community relations in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “SIPTU endorses the EFFAT demands of the UK and EU negotiators which include that they oppose any finalisation of the Brexit process that will leave a hard border in Ireland, that they ensure the free movement of workers is not limited but that current employment protections remain and that they protect the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement.
“Any deal must also ensure the involvement of trade unions in the preparation, the monitoring and implementation of the trade agreement.”