Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 29th March 2017
Leaders from across the UK’s food industry have outlined some of their concerns about the potential damage that a bad Brexit deal might do to their operations in the coming years.
Representatives of the National Farmers Union of England and Wales (NFU), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have issued a joint letter calling for the UK to negotiate favourable trade terms for food sector companies as Britain prepares to exit the European Union.
Article 50 has now been triggered, officially initiating the process of taking the UK out of the EU, and businesses are now keenly aware that the outcome of negotiations around post-Brexit trade deals could have very significant consequences for their operations and their profit margins.
Joint statements signed by the NFU, the FDF and the BRC point out that the food industry employs close to four million people in the UK and generates an estimated £108 billion in value for the economy.
The trade groups all want to see the strategic importance of their industry addressed directly as Brexit negotiations unfold over the course of the coming weeks and months.
“We cannot operate in isolation,” the joined statement says. “Our farmers need imported feed and inputs and they need access to other markets for their products.
“Our food and drink manufacturers rely on exports to grow their businesses and imports to complement their use of domestically produced ingredients and raw materials. Our retailers need access to a full range of goods all year round to balance seasonality and meet consumer demand.”
With all that in mind, the food industry groups are eager to see the British government ensure that “frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU” can be maintained as the Brexit process unfolds.
They also want the UK to aim to establish an “ambitious bilateral free trade agreement with the EU that delivers two-way tariff-free trade”.
There are concerns among some trade organisations and businesses that the process of taking the UK out of the EU will leave British-based manufacturers and food producers facing hefty tariffs and significant pressure on their operational finances as a result.