'Retain EU free trade pacts or kill two thirds of Northern Ireland's dairy industry'
Around two thirds of Northern Ireland's dairy business could be "killed off" post-Brexit, a committee of MPs has been warned.
Dr Mike Johnston, the Northern Ireland director of Dairy UK, said in order to keep the business alive, a period of continued access to the EU free trade agreements was vital.
It is estimated that two-thirds of UK dairy exports outside the EU are from Northern Ireland.
Dr Johnston warned that if measures are not put in place ahead of Brexit, export tariffs could double, effectively killing off the business.
He made his warnings during an evidence session of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the future of the land border with the Republic of Ireland.
Dr Johnston, who was joined by other senior members of the region's agri-food industry, told MPs that the UK dairy industry exports to around 100 countries.
He said: "The total of UK Dairy exports outside the EU, about two-thirds, are from Northern Ireland. We have developed long-term relationships over the years and a lot of that is based on the 50-plus free trade agreements the EU has in place.
"What we would be looking for is continuity for a period of those agreements. If we had to switch overnight to world trade, to WTO (World Trade organisation) tariffs, it would just kill that business.