Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and British Foreign Secretary William Hague have launched a British Irish Chamber of Commerce.

This is the first time that there will be an official link at chamber level between the two countries.

The chamber will be initially based at the RDS in Dublin and is currently hiring a full-time chief executive.

It will be a 'not-for-profit membership- based organisation focussed on increasing British-Irish business and investments, while also being an effective voice for its members and the British-Irish business community as a whole'.

Figures from 2009 showed that Ireland was the UK's fifth largest export market, with £24bn exports in goods and services. This accounted for 10% of the UK's two-way trade.

The UK buys 16% of Ireland's total exports and is Ireland's largest trading partner.

Ireland exports €13.5bn in goods to the UK.

The founding members of the Chamber are: AIB; Aviva Health Insurance Ireland; Bank of Ireland; CRH; Diageo; ESB; Farrell Grant Sparks; Fyffes; Glen Dimplex; Greencore; H & K International Ltd; Kingspan; KPMG; Lloyds Ireland; Marks & Spencer; Mason Hayes Curran; Oriel Wind Farm; PwC; Smurfit Kappa; The Irish Times and Ulster Bank.