EU Referendum Business Debate: Live from Belfast

On April 4 we’re holding a business-focused ‘brexit’ debate and we’ll be broadcasting across the UK, Ireland and beyond. Slugger O’Toole will be our official blog partners. The event is kindly sponsored by Equiniti Group, the FSB and Danske Bank.

We’ll have a panel of heavy-weight debaters on both sides of the argument including Owen Paterson MP (former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Kate Hoey (Labour MP for Vauxhall) on the ‘leave’ side. On the ‘remain’ side will be Shadow NI Secretary, Vernon Coaker MP and former Conservative MEP, John Stevens.

We have a few places at the event for Slugger O’Toole readers with an interest in business and economics. You can register your interest in attending the event – being held on the evening of April 4 – here. We’ll also be live-streaming the event so you can also watch online if you don’t secure a place.


  • Angry Mob

    A good advocate for brexit in the form of Owen Paterson who can also make a very strong case for how those of the farming community would be better off after leaving the EU.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Do you know any details of how NI farmers would be better off? This is a big factor for NI.

  • Angry Mob
  • Kevin Breslin

    He hasn’t as yet, being a former minister for agriculture his only legacy was losing his job. It’s hard to believe there was a role he was worse at than Northern Ireland secretary but there you go.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I doubt Owen Patterson would stand by the increased production argument within the current market of oversupply in certain sectors. I am giving him more credit than I think he is due.

  • Angry Mob

    Can you be a bit more specific here?

  • Angry Mob

    Owen Paterson was generally well received by the farming community as he understood the issues that they faced. If the best you can do is ad hominem attacks that says a lot that what hes speaking of is very credible.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Specific to Pork and Dairy Products. Ultimately I didn’t expect this speech to be up to date but I am somewhat shocked that he hasn’t done his research on the current agrifood market.

  • Angry Mob

    A statistic I read recently said that we import more pork than we produce; we also import a lot of dairy products such as butter and cheese.

    The problem our farmers face is that they have to maintain higher standards than their colleagues on the continent so production costs are higher which is fine but it imbalances the playing field. Outside the EU you could have more control over this by either subsiding our farmers more through control of our own CAP, reducing the import of lower quality foodstuffs or most unlikely deregulating our own agrifoods industries.

    I would surmise that Mr Patersons speech was how the agrifood sector could flourish outside the EU after leaving and improve the UK’s food security.

  • samay

    As I understand it, farmers in NI have to maintain exactly the same standards of welfare and hygiene as their EU cousins. One of our problems,especially in the beef sector, is that housing of cattle over a long winter period increases our production costs versus many other countries where the housing period is shorter.

  • Sir Rantsalot


  • Kevin Breslin

    The pressure on standards doesn’t come from the EU, but from globalized capitalism. If people are buying an imported good they want something better than they can get at home don’t they?

    If they were just attracted to the lowest common denominator we would all be just eating rice and raman.

    The only consolation is that turn about is fair play, UK goods are high standards for export for the same reason, to beat the “home team”. Same rational exists in Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. And let’s not be Little Europeans … there are many goods like coffee, tea, pineapples etc. that just don’t grow here or in Europe (even including the French OSTs).

    However the UK cannot of course to use the propaganda phrase “control” these consumers, they can only put their best foot forward and hope for the best.

    Even outside the EU, the UK could not discriminate against goods from other nations in an ad hoc manner due to WTO rules.

    In terms of the production costs the disadvantage is negligible at least in comparison to the costs are on par with any Western European or Developed nation like the Republic of Ireland Spain, or France. Indeed these nations often have to buy British tractors, British fertilizers, British pesticides and British veterinary medicines to make their foods. So by the miracle of free trade even not buying British goods you can be helping British. Protectionism would hurt this.

    Also the EU has leveled the playing field on cheap goods from Eastern Europe by forcing Polish and Hungarian goods to improve their standards. Polish and Hungarian goods were available in the UK before these countries joined the EU and the UK retailer was willing to sell them. Poland is now in a position to buy the tractors, fertilizers and pesticides coming from the UK itself.

    Even the cheap imports from outside the EU in the EU market believe it or not are regulated and tariffs (unless they are black market) in line with EU trade agreements and WTO rules. They are often cheaper due to lower production costs due to lower wages.

    EU food restrictions do stop them from dumping any old food on us… particularly Health and Safety ones.

    Export and Trade is a bigger problem:

    UK agri-goods for export are in the same boat as any European nation inside the EU or not, banned by Russia (mutual sanctions which apply to all NATO members too), unwanted by a China in recession or a self sufficient India, while Brazil seems to have enough pork and dairy to provide for Russia.

    With the BRIC nations out of the question, the Pacific nations (USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Pacific nations, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand ) are the next bet, but these not growing any better the EU is and any trade deal with them goes both ways.

    The Islamic World nor Israel doesn’t eat Pork on a high level either so that’s a lot of developing nations out of the question too.

    The Jim Allister argument of being “shackled” to slow growing economies (which developed nations often are compared to developing nations) still remains.

    There’s no shackles on trading with South Korea and Mexico, so why isn’t the chance to maximize trade outside the EU not taken?

    Instead of expecting frontier manifest destiny of opportunities in the world, maybe we should ask ourselves how much is down to risk aversion by British and Irish traders to go to these unfamiliar markets for some opportunities?

    Also, developed nations are likely to prove to have the same trade aversions as the EU to break a decent mix of free trade and protectionism, but as a block the EU is a more attractive market than a single country in my opinion.

  • Angry Mob

    Few quick points you are right you can not discriminate however through NTB or otherwise known as TBT’s you can impose sanctions, quoats etc

    The EU, having control of our trade is responsible for trade agreements with countries like Korea and Mexico. If there is still tariffs and TBT then it puts the EU’s goods at a disadvantage to other trading nations which can provide similar goods at a lower cost. Outside the Eu the UK could negotiate it own trade deals and export to those countries.