No deal Brexit: 'disastrous'

THE MANAGING director of Glens of Antrim Potatoes has claimed that a no-deal Brexit could have disastrous consequences for the business.

Government guidance has stated that trade from Northern Ireland to EU countries will receive restrictions in the absence of an agreement.

The business, which was founded in 1972, has established a supply base with leading retailers throughout the Irish market, including Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Lidl and Marks & Spencers amongst others.

The company transports hundreds of tonnes of potatoes across Ireland each week, but the operation will be under threat if a no-deal agreement takes effect on 12 April in the absence of any other decisions.

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, managing director Michael McKillop, revealed that ramifications of a no-deal Brexit will hit his business hard.

“The implications is that it will cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds if we aren't able to grow or shift potatoes north and south of the border, or even into mainland Europe at all,” he said.

“It will have a massive impact as we work on small margins as it is currently, so we have to put in a cost cutting exercise.

“We have growers in the north and south of the border, we work on an all-Ireland basis, so we ship back and forward to different customers.”

The business, which is based in Cushendall, may also be forced to cut staff amid price hikes.

“We transport about hundreds of tonnes a week and through regulations that would have to stop straight away,” McKillop added.

“It potentially means that people will lose their jobs, but more worrying is the fact this will increase prices everywhere as the whole implications of Brexit will push up food prices.

“The price of potatoes will potentially go up to £40, £50 or £60 per tonne.”

Michael also added that opening a business store down in the Republic of Ireland is not economically viable.

“There is no protection due to the fact we have a presence in the Republic of Ireland,” he concluded.

“We would have to go down and open another premises in southern Ireland and that's just not viable.

“It is not something we can do through the cost structure of the business.”

SDLP Councillor Margaret Anne McKillop hopes ‘common sense will prevail’ in a bid to help save jobs and businesses.

“This news about Glens of Antrim Potatoes comes in the same week as May Park plan to shut a production line putting 400 jobs in jeopardy in Ballymena,” she said.

“Glens of Antrim Potatoes is a remarkable success story created by hard work, good marketing and high quality products. It makes me very angry that all this could be ruined as a direct result of the stupidity of those involved in opposing the backstop which is critical to ensuring that fears of this kind do not become reality.

“Ideally we should never be leaving the EU but given that there is a death wish among some to do so then we should at least have a deal which ensures that the free flow of goods across the border is not impeded in any way. That can't happen with the present shenanigans going on at Westminster with the DUP and Sinn Fein battling it out on College Green in front of the TV cameras.

“Even at this stage I would hope common sense will prevail. This crisis is about people, their jobs and livelihoods rather than the same old battle about Orange and Green.”

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