"Ireland is a big problem"
A leading figure from France's agricultural lobby has warned that he believes a hard border will be needed in Ireland when the UK leaves the EU.
Christophe Hillairet, a council member of Copa, the continent's largest farming group, said that Ireland's connection to the UK will become problematic if there are not significant barriers between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
"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," he told Agra, an agricultural site.
"Those of us who remain must, therefore, work together to protect Europe. In that context, it is simply not possible to have a soft Brexit and still maintain the advantage which the EU has as a trading bloc," he continued.
He fears non-EU goods will come into the EU market from Northern Ireland through a soft border.
The President of Ireland's International Capital Market Services Association (ICMSA), the oldest senior farm organisation in Ireland, has described these comments as "disappointingly self-centred."
"The only people who would have enjoyed reading Monsieur Hillariet’s comments were the very anti-EU British Eurosceptics who want to play the different Member States off against each other and who want to forment that feeling of tension between different sectors and nations. That must not happen and with respect to our French friends we would prefer them to reflect on the common good and not just on their own particular sectoral anxieties," he added.
Speaking in Brussels today, European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker reiterated that the avoidance of a hard border in Ireland is one of the EU's three main priorities as it enters Brexit talks.
“In order to protect the peace and reconciliation process described by the Good Friday Agreement, we must aim to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland," he told MEPs.