Free trade must be maintained - farming unions

editorial image

Livestock representatives from the UK Farming Unions and the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) have met in Belfast to discuss Brexit and the trade implications for the livestock sector.

The organisations agreed it is essential that free trade is maintained between the United Kingdom and the European Union post-Brexit. This must include securing a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (ROI).

UFU beef and lamb chairman Crosby Cleland said the UK’s decision to leave the European Union has brought into focus many issues for the cattle and sheep sector in the UK and ROI.

“Our countries have strong trade links for both livestock and red meat products and it will be essential we have a free trade agreement in order to secure a healthy future for these vulnerable sectors,” he added.

Existing trade links between the UK and ROI are well established and play a vital role in each economy. Mr Cleland said politicians must take this into consideration during Brexit negotiations.

“Nearly 40 per cent of the UK’s beef exports go to ROI while 50 per cent of Irish beef exports are marketed in the UK. In terms of sheep, the fact that over 40 per cent of Northern Ireland’s lambs are processed in the Republic of Ireland and 90 per cent of the UK’s lamb exports are destined for the European market show that there is a lot hanging on achieving a progressive free trade arrangement.”