The UK's dairy body has called for assurances that trade arrangements will continue smoothly post-Brexit - and warned that the price of cheese could rise by as much as a third.
Trade group Dairy UK today released a report in which the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic was highlighted as a major issue facing the dairy sector. The organisation said a "frictionless and seamless border regime that could be a blueprint for future arrangements with the EU" is necessary to protect the Northern Irish dairy industry.
In 2015, dairy exports from Northern Ireland were valued at £154m, with more than £60m of that total coming from exports to the Republic of Ireland.
The group also said the imposition of WTO tariffs would push up the wholesale price of cheddar in the UK and lead to 20 per cent and two per cent increases in the retail prices of cheese and butter, respectively. UK dairy firms have already warned of an impending butter crisis, due to a milk shortage, which has also contributed to rising prices.
Dairy UK said Brexit was "the most defining issue the industry has faced for generations"
"The absolute priority for the UK government should be the earliest possible conclusion of a free-trade agreement with the EU that ensures the greatest possible continuity of existing arrangements. The worst outcome to the Brexit negotiations would be for trade with the EU to be based only on WTO rules," the group stated.