The Taoiseach has said the Government has alerted the European Commission that Ireland will seek emergency aid in the event of a no-deal Brexit to help cope with the impact on Irish trade - particularly the beef, dairy and fishing sectors.

Speaking tonight at the 64th AGM of the Irish Farmers Association, Leo Varadkar said the EU Common Market Organisation also provides for mechanisms to be introduced in order to manage severe market disturbances and that Ireland will be seeking assistance on that front too.

He said that the Cabinet discussed EU intervention mechanisms for agricultural products at their meeting this morning.

They also considered other EU supports including aids to private storage and restructuring grants as well as other State aids.

Mr Varadkar said the Government already has EU approval for the rescue and restructuring of businesses hit by Brexit.

He described Brexit as the great political challenge of our time and said that we need to hold our nerve, hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and not be surprised by anything in between.

The Taoiseach assured the farmers that the Government will always have their back and that farmers, fishermen and exporters were always at the forefront of his mind in the Brexit negotiations.

Earlier the IFA President said that with two months to go to Brexit, this is a time for cool heads and steely determination.

Joe Healy said that it is important to keep the pressure back in London and that unless the UK adjust their red lines and come forward with something better, the backstop has to remain.

Mr Healy was addressing the 64th annual general meeting of the IFA at Bluebell in Dublin.

He said that farmers must continue to have unfettered access to their largest market which is the UK.

He said that damage was already being done to be price of cattle as a result of Brexit, and that Brexit will certainly be a disaster for Irish farmers.

The IFA president said farmers are sitting ducks in relation to Brexit and that every conversation and discussion in relation to the matter is now about damage limitation. 

Speaking at the AGM, Mr Healy took a major swipe at the beef factories over beef prices and said the proposed cuts in the EU farm budget due to Brexit alone would reduce Irish farm incomes by €246m, which he said would be a savage cut.

He criticised the Taoiseach for his recent comments over eating meat and said he needs to remember he is the Taoiseach for all of Ireland, not just Dublin.

He said we have been bombarded with reports and fad diets designed by what he labelled "quacks masquerading as nutritional experts" but that farmers will not be driven off their land "by keyboard warriors and lifestyle gurus" and will not be getting rid of their livestock.

He said that farmers must continue to have unfettered access to their largest market, which is the UK. 

Farmers 'fed up' with taking climate change rap

On climate change, Mr Healy said farmers are fed up taking the rap for every climate ill that exists, particularly as they have been doing so much to address it.

He said nine out of every ten measures under the EU Common Agriculture Policy - through which farmers receive financial supports - have specific environmental or sustainability elements and requirements.

He said that the lack of balance in the debate about environment and climate change is most frustrating for farmers.

He said that all of the emphasis is on environmental sustainability without sufficient consideration for economic and social sustainability.

He said that the debate about climate action has to get real about the role of agriculture. Irish dairy farmers are the most carbon efficient in Europe and our beef farmers are among the top five. 

The farming sector he said will do more in relation to climate action but that the Government approach must be more carrot and less stick.

He pointed out that agricultural output in Ireland has grown by 40% since 1990 but that greenhouse gas emissions from the sector have actually reduced.

He added that the IFA "Smart Farming" programme had also shown farmers how to cut their emissions by 9% while improving profitability by an average of €7,100 per year.

In addition the State agricultural agency Teagasc has set out a road-map that has 27 measures which could reduce climate emissions from the farming sector by almost nine million tonnes per year.

Mr Healy said that that IFA has written to the Taoiseach and requested him to co-ordinate the government departments and state agencies in the delivery of this climate pathway for the sector.

Farmers will suffer savage cuts in EU farm supports, warns Healy

Mr Healy said that Irish farmers will suffer savage cuts in EU farm supports under the EU budget proposals as a result of Brexit.

Mr Healy said that the proposed 5% cut in the EU farm budget takes no account of inflation over the course of the next five years and when implemented it will translated into a reduction of €264m for Irish farmers. 

He said that no Irish Commissioner or Minister for Agriculture could agree to this.

The farm leader said that rather than being cut, the CAP budget must result in increased Direct Payments supporting active farmers and a well funded Rural Development Programme.

He also said that CAP payments should go to "genuine" farmers but that he accepted defining a genuine farmer will be challenging.