The report, entitled UK EU Exit: Trade Exposures of Sectors of the Irish Economy in a European Context, took into account products from across all 27 member states of the EU and found that 11 out of the top 15 EU products most exposed to the UK are Irish exports.
This exposure is particularly marked in the agri-food sector.
Cereals and cereal preparation products top the list, followed by vegetables and fruit.
Other sectors to feature include live animals, animal feed, meat, dairy products and eggs.
Irish export vulnerability
According to the report, these sectors would face some of the highest tariffs if the EU-registered WTO tariff schedule was applied to EU-UK trade.
It also noted the UK’s intention to pursue new trade deals could have “substantial negative consequences for these most exposed sectors in the Irish economy, as it would be a significant step change in the trading relationship that has developed since EU membership.
“Irish exporters would be exposed to increased competition on two fronts: there would be higher entry costs in accessing the UK market and increased competition from third country producers,” wrote the report’s authors.
Decline and growth
The importance of the UK to the Republic as a destination market for exports has declined over the past 40 years, but some sectors have seen their dependence increase since the turn of the century.
In 2015, the UK accounted for 17% of Irish exports, compared to over 50% in the early 1970s.
Conversely, the level of Ireland’s food and live animals exports to the UK increased from 38% in 2000 to 46% in 2015, while manufactured goods exports jumped from 43% to 55% over the same period.
Earlier this week, Irish food board, Bord Bia, received €6.7m ($8m) in funding to undertake a program of additional activities to support the country’s food and drink sectors in addressing Brexit challenges.
Softening Brexit disruptions
Commenting on the Brexit Position Paper released by the UK Government last month, Michael Bell, executive director of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) told BakeryandSnacks the association welcomed government’s recognition of the importance of the agri-food industry to Ireland’s economy.
“We are working closely with the Food and Drink Federation and Food Drink Ireland to ensure the unique trading relationships between Ireland and the UK can continue to grow and prosper during the period of Brexit negotiations and beyond.
“We are also remain actively engaged in lobbying the UK government to recognise the specific requirements of our industry,” he said.
Michele Van Der Walt, Kerry’s VP Commercial Sales, UK & Ireland, also told this site Brexit has the possibility to create disruption to trade and business flow, but until the negotiations progress, the level is difficult to assess.
“Notwithstanding current uncertainty, we are confident that, with our global operating footprint, and international supply chains, we will be well-placed to mitigate risks and manage Brexit-related disruption, if it arises,” she said of the Irish food ingredients group.
Earlier, Ian Wright, director general of UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said vital imports and exports of raw ingredients and finished goods must not delayed or impeded.
“If that can be achieved, then UK and Irish consumers of food and drink will continue to enjoy the quality, choice and value that they rightly have come to expect,” he said.