A leaked UK government document seen by The Times newspaper has suggested that Ireland could face food shortages in the event of a no-deal or ‘hard’ Brexit. 

And it is further suggested that Ireland’s economy would suffer more than the UK’s if Britain leaves the European Union on 29 March without a trade deal.

The leaked papers say the UK leaving the EU without a deal would cause a 7% drop in GDP for Ireland, compared to a 5% decline in Britain, the newspaper said. 

This is because Ireland is “a more open economy than the UK, accounting for 60% of GDP comprised of goods imports and exports, as opposed to 40% for Great Britain”.

Ireland is more dependent on the UK than the other way around, with Britain accounting for 13.1% of Irish exports and 29.1% of imports, the papers say.

In financial terms, Ireland imports more than EUR4bn in food from the UK each year, just under half of all food imports. However, Irish food exports to the UK exceed EUR5bn.

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The assessment points out that some 80% of Irish road freight that reaches the EU passes through the UK. Any additional checks at the border – even one-way from Great Britain into Ireland – “would cause challenges”.

The papers specify that trade in perishable goods, such as food supplies, would be particularly badly affected. 

An Irish government source told The Times that contingency planning for a hard Brexit had been under way for most of this year.

“We are prepared if there is a no-deal scenario next March,” the source told the newspaper.

A follow up report in The Irish Times newspaper quoted sources as saying that Irish supermarkets and their suppliers have done significant work in examining their supply chains in the event of a hard Brexit, but the problem is that many of the products come directly from UK warehouses into the distribution centres of Irish supermarkets, moving on a daily basis with limited storage in Ireland.

It said that key UK-imported products that fit into this scenario include ready meals, cereals and biscuits.

Its sources said that the Irish government’s trade body, Bord Bia, has worked with the major groups on these key supply chain issues and extra storage capacity is being considered in Ireland by some groups to offset the impact of any hard Brexit next March.

just-food has contacted the Irish food industry organisation, Food Drink Ireland, for a reaction to this story.