The IFA’s President, Joe Healy, is just one of a number of farm leaders who have met to discuss Brexit priorities in Co. Down today.

It is hoped that the meeting, which is being hosted by the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), will allow farm leaders from Ireland and the UK to discuss the implications of Brexit and to co-ordinate the approach of farm leaders to the negotiations.

The President of the UFU Barclay Bell, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) President Meurig Raymond, the NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick and the NFU Wales President Stephen James were all expected to take part.

During the meeting, the IFA President is expected to set out the priorities for farming and food in the association’s policy paper on Brexit.

There is a strong awareness of the importance of the British market for our food exports, but the level of trade and co-operation between North and South is also significant.

“The shared land border and geographical closeness has led to the development of a highly-integrated agri-food sector, with large volumes in both finished products and products requiring further processing,” Healy said.

“There is a strong view among all farm leaders of the importance of placing our issues at the top of the agenda.

“We will be working closely as the Brexit negotiations evolve to insist that our political leaders have farming and food at the heart of the discussions,” Healy said.

The IFA wants to maintain the closest possible trading relationship between the UK and EU, he added.

The value of the UK markets needs to be preserved, as well as a strong CAP budget following the UK’s departure, Healy said.

He believes that if these measures aren’t met farm incomes, farm output and economic activity in rural Ireland could all be badly effected.

The disruption to trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, as well as between Ireland and Britain, would be minimised by the UK remaining within the Customs Union, he said.

However, if the UK exits the Customs Union, there must be a Comprehensive Free-Trade Agreement between the EU and UK, he added.