The Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers and the Federation of Bakers have signed an open letter calling on the government to make an early agreement on future trade with the Republic of Ireland.

As the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union, the baking bodies have addressed that a key priority for the food and drink industry is to secure a tariff-free trade with the EU.

However, the open letter has outlined that this is of particular importance with Ireland, as nearly a fifth of UK food and drink exports go to Ireland, with more than a third of Ireland’s reaching UK shores. The UK also supplies 80% of the flour used in Ireland.

Thirty-five representative bodies from the food and drink industry have all signed the open letter.

“Our industry needs the government to ensure existing tariff-free trading arrangements between the UK and Ireland are maintained,” the letter said.

“We are pleased that the Prime Minister is seeking a ‘frictionless’ border between the UK and Ireland post-Brexit. It is imperative that, once Article 50 is triggered, the future border arrangements are high on the target list for prompt resolution.

“Government should make a clear and early statement of principle that it is committed to maintaining this trade with Ireland and that it will make it a priority in negotiations.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has said she will trigger Article 50 by the end of March 2017 - beginning formal negotiations on Brexit.