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Pigs and the Brexit

The Irish pig industry fears that a possible departure of the United Kingdom out of the EU might deepen the current European pig crisis.

For those readers who are located outside the European Union (EU): there's a few tendencies inside the EU that point in the direction of disintegration. So far, no country has ever left the union, but in case, for whatever reason, one country is on the verge to do so, usually the first letters of this country is used in combination with the word 'exit'.

Best-known example is possibly the threat of an imminent 'Grexit'. Last year, Greece was about to be pushed out of the EU due to ongoing financial problems. So far, however, the EU and Greece always managed to agree on terms for new support packages, so a Grexit never happened.

Brexit & pig producers

These days, '#brexit' is a trending topic on Twitter, and even among pig producers it's been causing some uneasiness. Why?

The 'br' refers to 'Britain', also known as the United Kingdom, member of the EU as of 1973. Since the British take pride in not having been conquered since 1066 and since they have always felt comfortable living on an island, their attitude towards the mainland has always been a touch ambivalent to say the least.

British referendum about the EU

Exactly how much the Brits still love Europe shall be tested on June, 23. For that day, a nationwide referendum is scheduled about the UK staying in the European Union. In short, the question is: 'should we stay or should we go?' Over the years, several EU directives have been perceived as being micromanagement in Britain, and also the lack of democracy in certain EU processes is getting too much for some.

Add to this mixture several teaspoons of discontent about immigration and several ounces of a general feeling that the EU is to blame for everything no matter what, and it's unsure what's boiling in the British cauldron, too close to call!

A pig farm in Co. Cavan, Ireland, that is currently being renovated. What is the future of Irish pig industry if the UK votes to opt out of the EU?<br />[Photo Vincent ter Beek]
A pig farm in Co. Cavan, Ireland, that is currently being renovated. What is the future of Irish pig industry if the UK votes to opt out of the EU?
[Photo Vincent ter Beek]

Irish pig industry fears a Brexit

The Irish, I found out last week at the annual European Pig Producers congress in Dublin, aren't too happy about these developments at their neighbours at all. There is something to say about this. The Irish pig industry has grown to become an exporting industry. In 2015, total exports to the European Union were 77.7 million metric tonnes (MMT). Of this, 41.2 MMT (53%) went to their direct neighbours, i.e. the United Kingdom. Not surprisingly, the majority is simply shipped northbound, to Northern Ireland.

Should the UK decide to step out of the EU, then what will happen to these exports?


No-one knows, that's the answer. As said, never before has a country really stepped out of the European Union. And if the UK would step out, what will it mean? Does it mean that the country is 'out' as from June, 24? Or will there be a road map to withdrawal, with loads of opt-in and opt-outs to be renegotiated? Will this process be accompanied by replacing treaties with regard to free trade agreements?

When you come to think of it – it was only a few years ago when Scotland narrowly voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. The Scots, who historically have had a bond with France, have already announced the setup of a new referendum to withdraw from the UK in case Britain votes itself out of the EU, so they can get back into the EU. And what will the Welsh or the Northern Irish do?

Saving Britain from administrative chaos

From my perspective, the British have an opportunity to save themselves from complete administrative chaos, just by voting wisely to stay in the EU.

If that isn't convincing enough, perhaps they should do so in support of the Irish pig industry!


  • Graeme Kirk

    Even more interesting could be the fate of the 8,000 pigs that cross the Border from the Republic of Ireland into the UK every week for slaughter in Northern Ireland. HMRC figures show this trade was worth nearly 70 million euros in 2015 for 46,594t (liveweight) of finishers. UK goverment figures also show that 30,286t of fresh, chilled and frozen pig carcases and joints were then dispatched back to the Republic (presumably most of that from Southern Irish pigs), while it sent 25,418t north of the Border into the UK market.

  • JA Veltkamp

    The people still need and want to eat so there will be import in the UK still. What's the problem of an Brexit? Probably some people in Brussels might lose their job. They are with to many anyway. So again what's the problem of an Brexit. Let's shake it up and dust it out and HOPEFULLY brussel might learn something.

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  • tony hulk

    Very good, I think I found the knowledge I needed. I will see and refer some information in your post. thank you.

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