IFA President Joe Healy has warned that a British exit from the EU, or Brexit, would be very damaging for the farming and food sector in Ireland.

Speaking at a Brexit briefing with representatives from the agri-food industry, the IFA President appealed to the Irish community living in the UK to support the position that keeps the EU intact.

“From an Irish farming and agri-food perspective, it is hugely important for Ireland that the UK remains within the EU. While a UK exit from the EU would be negative overall for the Irish economy, the stakes are highest for farming and the agri-food sector, with our huge dependence on the UK market for our €4.4bn exports, the shared land border, and the potential impact on the CAP budget.”

The UK represents our most important agri-food export market, accounting for over 40% of Irish agricultural exports. It is the destination for over 50% of our beef, 60% of our cheese, €350m worth of pigmeat exports and almost 100% of our mushroom exports.

It is a high-value market, with customers sharing the same language and with similar consumer preferences as Irish customers, he said.

“Should the UK vote to leave the EU, Irish agriculture would undoubtedly suffer negative consequences, both in the short-term and the longer term.

“Already in 2016, we have seen a weakening of Sterling against the euro, arising mainly from the uncertainty on the referendum outcome. This has reduced the competitiveness of Irish exports, with a disproportionate impact on the Irish agri-food sector”.

In the longer term, he said that the uncertainties presented by the changed trading relationship between the UK and EU pose a significant threat, with the potential reintroduction of tariffs, quotas, and border controls.

“The costs of trading with the UK would, inevitably, rise. In addition, the threat of displacement of Irish product from the UK market is very real, should the UK enter into preferential trade agreements with other exporting countries.”

Healy also said the consequences of the changed trading relationship would extend to other areas, such as animal health. With a shared land border between Ireland and the UK, the risks to the health of the animal population would increase, if, over time, different regulatory regimes were pursued between Ireland and the UK.

The UK is a net contributor of €8bn the EU budget, and its withdrawal would put pressure on the CAP budget. Irish agriculture is a significant beneficiary from the CAP budget, receiving over €1.5bn annually through Direct Payments and the Rural Development programme.