Food firms ‘to face higher costs after EU exit’

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, European commission, United kingdom

'Scare-mongering' reports have over emphasised the dangers of quitting the EU
'Scare-mongering' reports have over emphasised the dangers of quitting the EU
Food and drink manufacturers would face higher long-term costs if Britain quits the EU, but the move would have less impact on business than some “scare-mongering” reports suggest.

That’s the assessment of Lars Hoelgaard of the Brussels think tank Farm Europe and the former deputy director general of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Speaking before an animal health conference staged in Brussels yesterday (Thursday June 11), Hoelgaard told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “There’s been some scare mongering about​ [the impact on business] of the UK quitting the EU.

“But it would be wrong to exaggerate the impediments to business.”

‘Wrong to exaggerate the impediments’

Food and drink manufacturers – alongside other British businesses – will still be able to benefit from access to the single market. However, Britain would find itself in a similar position to Norway: it would lack influence and face increased costs, he said.

“While the single market would still be open to the UK, and its food industry, that would be on a take-it or leave-it basis.”

After a decision to quit the union Britain would have “very little influence on legislation and no influence on the decision-making process”,​ said the former EU boss.

“That loss of influence would inevitably lead to lack of influence in the long-run.”

Prime Minister David Cameron made the promise of an in-out referendum on Britain’s EU referendum a key part of the Conservatives’ election manifesto. The government has pledged to negotiate EU reform ahead of a national vote some time within the next two and a half years.

‘Wrong to exaggerate’

“There’s been some scare mongering about [the impact on business] of the UK quitting the EU. But it would be wrong to exaggerate the impediments to business.”

  • Lars Hoelgaard, former Brussels boss

Cameron met other EU leaders – including the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel – yesterday for what one Belgian aide described as “frank and open talks”​ on plans to reform the union.

Welfare payments

Top of Cameron’s reform agenda are: restrictions on entitlements to welfare payments, more powers for national parliaments and an opt out for Britain from closer EU ties.

Cameron told journalists in Brussels: “I am content with the progress made so far but the referendum will happen by the end of 2017.”

Many business organisations believe Britain would be better off within a reformed EU. Organisation voicing support included the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Confederation of British Business and the manufacturers’ organisation EEF.

Food and drink manufacturers “want to be part of a strong EU,”​ FDF boss Ian Wright told FoodManufacture.co.uk.

And the Scotch Whisky Association warned recently that exiting the union would hit whisky exports​.

Meanwhile, watch out for more reports from the animal health conference – ‘Healthy animals, healthy food, a healthy future’ – organised by the International Federation for Animal Health-Europe – next week on FoodManufacture.co.uk.

Related topics: Cereals and bakery preparations, Drinks

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