Our meat exports to UK could fall by 80pc, warns IFA

Mr Healy told the Oireachtas agriculture committee that his organisation was already lobbying via the farmer unions across the EU for the best possible deal for Irish farming.

But economist Jim Power warned the committee, drawing parallels with the experience of the banks’ bailout, that we cannot rely on goodwill from our EU partners to give Ireland special treatment.

“We were hung out to dry on the whole bank bailout and I would expect the same treatment on Brexit,” he warned.

Mr Power also said that in case of a so-called “hard Brexit”, where the UK leaves the EU Single Market and the customs union, he could not envisage the avoidance of the Border with the North.

The IFA leader said that if Britain severed ties with the EU, there would be huge implications for farmers on both sides of the Border. He said up to a billion litres of milk were brought from the North each year for processing in the Republic and later exported as higher-value products.

Mr Healy said some 350,000 lambs were brought from the Republic each year while some half a million pigs were sent North for processing there. He said, in the absence of EU rules, the World Trade Organisation tariff regimes would be applied between the two jurisdictions.

The IFA leader said these averaged 15pc – but were much higher for some products. A 30pc rate applied for dairy products and in the case of some meat products there was a 50pc rate.

Prices

Mr Healy said that their first objective was to lobby for the UK keeping full EU Single Market membership. Failing that, there must be a bid for an EU-UK free trade deal.

Mr Power said that Ireland could relatively easily substitute some of the €3.8bn food imports from the UK. On exports, the branded products sold into the UK had the best chance of keeping British shoppers’ loyalty in spite of rising prices.

But Mr Power warned that too many of Ireland’s UK food exports were unbranded commodities. He said in that case, with tariffs and a weak sterling, it would be hard to hold market share.

In the medium term, Ireland needed to develop new markets and make the economy as efficient as possible, he said. The priority must be a high-tech economy with a skilled and educated workforce.

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