Brexit: There's a misconception that Ireland could negotiate a post-exit trade agreement

No one is sure what will happen if the UK chooses to leave the EU...

Brexit: There's a misconception that Ireland could negotiate a post-exit trade agreement

Tim Ireland / PA

The Irish Exporters Association (IEA) has warned of the damaging effects that both a UK exit from the EU, and the uncertainty created by even the prospect of Britain leaving, will have on Irish firms.

"It is very important to note that Ireland has a lot of skin in this game, and how important the UK market is for us," IEA chief executive Simon McKeever told Newstalk's Business Breakfast.

"There is this misconception out there that Ireland could immediately, or even now, negotiate a bilateral trade agreement with the UK. That is absolutely rubbish, they cannot do that," he said, noting that trade agreements with the UK would need to be agreed between the European Commission and Britain and that this would be likely to be a lengthy process.

Recent research carried out by the IEA found that 90 percent of its members trade in the UK and that 61 percent are concerned about the introduction of new tariffs, 73 percent are worried about border controls while 60 percent think a Brexit would have a negative impact on job creation in Ireland.

Mr McKeever says that in general his association's members are "very worried" about the prospect of the UK going.

He adds that while "our hands are very much tied" Ireland's limited influence could be significant given the potentially slim margin that will decide June's vote.

Meanwhile, research commissioned by the Confederation of British Industry has found that a UK vote to leave the European Union could cost the UK economy £100bn and 950,000 jobs by 2020.

The CBI said Brexit would deliver a "serious shock" to the economy regardless of any trade deals the country could negotiate with its former European partners.

"This analysis shows very clearly why leaving the European Union would be a real blow for living standards, jobs and growth," CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said in a statement.

This latest piece of research comes days after the London School of Economics published a report which said that Ireland will "suffer the largest proportional losses” of any country other than the UK if a Brexit takes place.