A HAMPSHIRE peer has warned that Brexit could result in the loss of funds for vital conservation work in the county.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu said European cash used to finance important projects was unlikely to be replaced with money from the UK government when Britain left the EU.

He was speaking at the Beaulieu Estate Dinner, an annual event for tenants and other guests.

“The result of the Brexit referendum will be especially significant for the agricultural and food industry. With UK agriculture being a major exporter, the ability to trade globally – particularly with Europe – will be of  critical importance,” he said.

“Brexit could also have an effect on nature on nature conservation.

“In recent years we have seen the benefits of European money for a number of major projects in the New Forest.

"It would be nice to think that similar levels of funding will be available from the British government in the future, but given the drive to reduce the national deficit I have my doubts.”

Lord Montagu revealed that his sister, Mary Montagu-Scott, would become High Sheriff of Hampshire in April next year.

“This is a voluntary role which supports the work of the judiciary, emergency and voluntary services in the county,” he said.

“I know this will be a very busy year for her which will, I hope, include a special event at Beaulieu to celebrate the work of the emergency services in Hampshire.”

This year’s guest speaker was Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority.

Highlighting the ever-increasing pressure on the Forest he said the environmentally-sensitive area was experiencing 14 million day visits a year.

He also listed two other threats – plans to build thousands of homes in the district and the possible revival of proposals for a huge container terminal at Dibden Bay.

“The Forest is under considerable pressure,” said Mr Crosthwaite-Eyre.