Irish and French farmers clash over NI border


The President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has described the call made by a French farm leader for a ‘hard’ border between Northern Ireland and the Republic as “disappointingly self-centered.” 

  John Comer was reacting to comments by Christophe Hillairet, a council member of COPA and the leader of an influential regional French farmers association.

  In the widely respected Agra Europe, Monsieur Hillairet is quoted as saying that “Ireland is a big problem but for the French farmer we will need to have a hard border between the north and the Republic as otherwise we will have a lot of products that will cross from north to south. That would be very dangerous for our producers.”

  Mr. Comer said the comments were at best premature and could more frankly be described as self-centered. He said: “Monsieur Hillairet must be aware of the very recent history of suffering and conflict in precisely that border region whose avoidance would continue to take clear precedence over the anxieties of French farm groups as far as both Ireland and the United Kingdom were concerned.

  “These are farming and rural communities,” Mr. Comer explained, “who owned lands and collected and processed milk in plants on both sides of the border.” He added that the farming communities concerned had every right to expect that the EU and the UK would continue to facilitate that “absolutely natural process.” 

  As to Monsieur Hillairet’s expressed fear that lamb from New Zealand could arrive in Northern Ireland and cross a ‘soft’ border into the Republic before entering the mainland EU markets, Mr. Comer said that there was already a whole ‘Third-Country-Of-Origin’ labelling procedure worked out and operated satisfactorily throughout the EU and the UK’s continued adherence to that procedure could be negotiated as part of the overall process.  

  “What is more important,” said the ICMSA President, “is that EU farm leaders show some degree of solidarity and commitment to the Irish farming communities who were – by a considerable margin – the most affected sector within the EU both in economic and practical terms.”