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£850m cross-border farming trade at risk if UK leaves EU

Staff writer |
Food and drink exports from Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland worth £850 million would face an uncertain future if the UK voted to leave the European Union, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss warned.

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Ahead of Lisburn’s 148th Balmoral Show, Elizabeth Truss will highlight the vital trade relationship Northern Ireland’s farmers have with the European Union—in particular cross-border trade with the Republic of Ireland, which alone accounts for 65% of all the food and drink exports from Northern Ireland.

As part of the EU single market, Northern Ireland’s farmers and food producers can easily sell their goods to consumers across the border, benefitting from tariff-free access and common standards on labelling, safety and welfare.

It is far from certain what trading relationship the UK would have with the EU, including the Republic of Ireland, should the UK leave—farmers could face crippling tariffs to sell their goods to Europe and a red tape "double whammy" of different rules around inspections and labelling to sell abroad and at home – two sets of regulations, rather than one.

The single market is particularly important to Northern Ireland’s food and drink industry as it sells a much higher proportion of its food and drink exports to the EU—83% compared to the UK average of 60%.

Northern Ireland’s food and drink export trade with the EU brings in over £1bn to the economy. Meat exports account for over a quarter of this export value, at £280m, with dairy and eggs a close second at £240m.

Food and drink exports account for over a fifth of Northern Ireland’s total exports, with food and livestock exports to the EU more than doubling in real terms since 1998.

Exports of food and drink from Northern Ireland to the ROI alone are more than ten times the value of those to its biggest non-EU market, the USA, which accounts for £80m of food and drink exports.

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