40% of Ireland's food exports go to UK...
The President of the Irish Farmers' Association says Brexit is the biggest threat to the sector in half a century.
Speaking at the IFA's AGM in its Bluebell headquarters in Dublin today, Joe Healy argued that, with 40% of food exports going to the UK, no other industry in any other member state is as exposed in the negotiations.
“Agriculture and food cannot become a battleground between Brussels and London. There are too many farm livelihoods and jobs at stake.
“Politics cannot be allowed override our fundamental economic interests.”
Healy stressed that politicians in Dublin and Brussels cannot ignore the ongoing impact of the sterling devaluation. In his view, direct aid for the farmers and sectors affected by Brexit must be on the agenda.
"Farmers have taken most of the pain resulting from the weakness of sterling," he continued. "Beef farmers took a hit of €150m last year from this alone and mushroom growers saw their margins wiped out.
"These losses are a direct result of a political decision outside farmers’ control and cannot be tolerated."
The IFA expects the Government to use the strong relationship they have with both EU and UK leaders to influence a constructive approach to these difficult negotiations.
Healy also warned against a reduction in the Common Agriculture Programme (CAP) budget due to Brexit.
His comments come as British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed today that her nation would leave the Single Market, setting a course for a "hard" Brexit.