A 'NO DEAL' on Brexit would be the worse-case scenario for the UK sheep sector.

But Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, told its flagship biennial event that it was a possibility the sector needs to prepare for.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of NSA Sheep 2018 at Malvern on Wednesday, he said the majority of the 35 per cent of UK lamb exports go to the EU.

"We absolutely do not want a no deal on Brexit," he said. "However, it would be irresponsible not to be ready and prepare for this possibility.

"That means stepping up efforts to open new export markets outside the EU, doing much more to boost domestic demand for sheep meat, and protecting ourselves from imports.

"These are all things that will make sense for the sector even if we do get a deal, so its a win-win situation to put the work in now."

Mr Stocker said it was important to prepare for a no deal because negotiations could still go "very badly wrong".

He said: "There is a risk we could crash out, fall back to WTO rules face huge trade disruption - so we need to be ready and that is why it's important to prepare for a no deal."

By using Brexit and taking back some regulatory functions – along with a change of attitude in Government departments to want to support industry rather than being fearful of compliance with EU regulations – Mr Stocker said there were real opportunities to make progress."

Lord Inglewood, NSA president, explained the role of the House of Lords in the ongoing Brexit negotiations and Farming Minister George Eustice – unable to attend due to key votes in Parliament – sent a video message.