The Prime Minister's 'standoff' with the European Union could 'devastate' the Northern Irish sheep industry, farmers fear.
Boris Johnson has been warned of the vulnerability of the sheep sector in Northern Ireland following his visit to the region on Wednesday (31 July).
The damage of a no-deal Brexit could be felt strongly in Northern Ireland where the supply chain functions and flows across the entire island of Ireland regardless of borders.
The National Sheep Association (NSA) said a hard border across Ireland would not only be politically unsettling but would cut through businesses and farmers livelihoods.
Many Northern Irish producers rely on abattoirs in the south as Northern Ireland does not have the manpower to slaughter all of the animals produced.
NSA Northern Ireland Officer Edward Adamson said: “WTO rules mean animals can only be exported across borders if they are going for breeding purposes.
“It seems likely that Northern Irish farmers would no longer be able to send their animals to the south for slaughter, and those slaughtered in the north would have to meet tariffs to be sold in the south.
“This would be devastating for the region and could easily lead to a swift and conclusive collapse of rural communities in Northern Ireland,” Mr Adamson said.
With the Prime Minister now having visited the region, NSA has asked him to consider the implications of his current direction regarding Brexit.
Mr Johnson has also been urged to recognise the 'devastating effects' a no-deal would have on the sheep industry there.
Mr Adamson added: “Based on his recent conversation with the Republic of Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar it seems extremely likely we will get a no-deal and that is catastrophic.
“We won’t have anywhere to go with our lambs with WTO tariffs, to put it simply - we can’t survive.
“Mr Johnson doesn’t seem to recognise the sensitivity of the region and hasn’t made many friends this week as he only met the DUP cohort of Northern Irish politicians for dinner ahead of his visit – but not others.
“A blundered policy of do or die is in no way acceptable to the people here and our farmers will be ruined if he remains determined to stick to that policy,” he said.
The NSA said a hard border is 'not an acceptable situation' and Northern Irish farming would be 'damaged beyond recognition'.