European Union (EU) agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan warned British farmers over a possible Brexit, stressing that it would lead to loss of business and create economic uncertainty.
"British farmers will cease benefiting from a large number of free trade agreements risking to lose a large part of their business," Hogan said in an interview with Xinhua.
A possible Brexit means that the United Kingdom (UK) would have to renegotiate trade arrangements with third countries. The process might take years depriving producers of significant export markets also in the long-term, he explained.
British farmers would lose significant benefits resulting from proposed deals EU currently negotiates with third countries, he added.
Moreover British producers would risk loosing direct access to the EU's internal market, the commissioner warned, saying "They would have to re-enter the market through separate bilateral agreements with EU's 27 member states."
The EU accounts for 60 percent of the UK's food exports and in recent years the UK food and drink sector has generated 24 billion pounds (about 34 billion U.S. dollars) of Gross Value Added every year to the British economy, according to EU figures.
The food and drink sector remains Britain's largest manufacturing industry, accounting for almost 16 percent of total manufacturing turnover, figures by the UK's Food and Drink Federation show. The agri-food sector contributed 108.8 billion pounds, or 7.3 percent to national Gross Value Added in 2014, according to UK government figures.
In addition should Britain quit the EU, British producers will risk losing access to agricultural funds made available to EU farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Under the new reformed CAP for the period 2014-2020 British farmers are eligible to 3.2 billion pounds in subsidies per year, according to EU figures.
"There will be a negative impact on jobs. EU funds help the British sustain agriculture in many rural areas," the EU commissioner said, implicitly implying that without these subsidies a number of UK farmers might be forced to give up farming.
The UK is set to have a referendum on June 23 on whether or not to remain a member of the EU. (1 pound = 1.42 U.S. dollars)