Brexit is now a real concern warns Coveney
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has described the potential risk of a 'Brexit' as a "real concern", with the latest figures showing 54pc of the €2.4bn beef export trade left our shores for the UK last year.
Mr Coveney said the Government was firmly of the view that it was in both Ireland's and Britain's interest that the UK remain in the European Union.
At the Bord Bia review of food and drink exports for 2015, the minister highlighted the successful trade relationship, with Ireland exporting €4bn of food and drink to the UK and importing goods worth €3bn.
"We have this market very much in Ireland's favour," said Mr Coveney. "So anything that would create barriers, such as duties or tariffs on traded goods would be a real concern."
Mr Coveney said if a Brexit did occur, a method would have to be found to ensure trade links remained yet it would be a complex process. "I think farmers in the UK will begin to realise that in a very direct way as that question gets closer, given the supports that Britain's farmers get from the EU exchequer," he said.
Bord Bia's chief executive Aidan Cotter warned it would be a "significant issue" if the UK were to leave the EU with 41pc of Irish food and drink exports destined for our nearest neighbour.
"Clearly there would be a number of years of negotiation with the EU on it," he said, adding that with the UK a major export market for many European countries it would appear a "deal" would have to be struck for trade.
Irish exports received a massive boost as the euro weakened by 16pc against the US dollar and 10pc against sterling last year, the review showed.