Industry association Food Drink Ireland (FDI) has called for discussions on the UK's post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU to begin as soon as possible.
According to FDI Director Paul Kelly, "with 40 percent of total food and drink exports going to the UK, Ireland is four to six times more exposed than any other European country to Brexit."
"Supply chains in the food sector are deeply integrated between our two countries and the continued, uninterrupted flow of these supply chains are essential to the competitiveness of food and drink businesses on both islands. That is why FDI are calling for Brexit negotiations to produce outcomes that support the closest possible economic and trading relationship between the EU and the UK," he said.
Kelly argued that any future EU-UK trading relationship must ensure free and unfettered access to the UK market. He noted that, as the UK intends to leave the EU Single Market and Customs Union, that objective would be dependent upon there being a bilateral free trade agreement between the EU and UK.
Kelly added that both sides should commit to negotiate an ambitious and balanced agreement that prioritizes tariff- and barrier-free trade, long-term growth, investment, and stability. He would also like the agreement to take account of "the special case of the island of Ireland."
Kelly pointed out that transitional arrangements may be required to bridge the gap between the completion of the two-year exit process provided under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and when any future EU-UK agreement enters into force. He said that any such transitional arrangements would need to avoid tariffs and import quota regimes, and avoid requirements for new customs procedures. Finally, customs procedures should be dealt with as part of the first phase of Article 50 negotiations, he said.