Brexit debate

EU is ‘friend to food and drink’: Sir Stuart Rose

By Sir Stuart Rose

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Eu, International trade

Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe
Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe
The EU is a friend to our food and drink industries. As former executive chairman of Marks & Spencer, I have experience of the benefits that our membership of the EU provide.

Being a member of the single market is vital for the industry’s success. Trading in the single market allows us to import and export goods easily with a customer base of 500M. This allows us to keep prices low. UK food and agricultural exports to the EU are worth around £11.4bn a year and the EU takes 60% of UK food and agricultural exports. Losing out on this market would impact profits and drive up prices, rather than the opposite.

Treasury analysis shows that a vote to leave would hit the economy to the tune of £4,300 per household per year by 2030. This would leave us worse off, with less money to spend in the shops. 

Leaving the EU could result in higher tariffs and trade barriers. Our current membership of the EU makes businesses stronger, and leaving would be a leap in the dark that would hit trade, investment, and the stability on which businesses rely.

Commodities more expensive

Under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, the EU would apply ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) tariffs on imports from the UK, including agricultural imports. This would make UK exports to Europe more expensive and tariffs could be as high as 42% for dairy products. These additional tariffs and costs would force prices up, making important commodities more expensive.

Research by the independent Centre for Economics and Business Research think-tank has found WTO tariffs would increase the price of imports by £11bn across Britain.

Products which are unique to the UK are protected by the EU. The EU quality schemes on product names, which currently protects 64 British products, ensures products recognised enjoy legal protection throughout the EU against imitation or name misuse, which gives consumers confidence and allows producers to charge more.

The British products protected under the schemes so far include the Cornish pasty, West County Farmhouse Cheddar, Cornish Clotted Cheese, Scottish farmed and wild salmon, Welsh lamb, Jersey royal potatoes and the Melton Mowbray pork pie. Without this protection, we could see imitations of foods that are a vital part of our regions.

Easier for British producers to sell abroad

In addition, changing 28 national rules into one European standard makes it easier for British producers to sell abroad, as they do not have to comply with lots of differing European standards.

In Britain, we enjoy being able to access local produce as well as produce from abroad – this could be affected by a vote to leave, with an impact on farms and therefore food and drink.

A recent report by the National Farmers Union stated that farmers could lose up to £27,400 a year if we choose to leave the EU, unless new national taxpayer subsidies are put in place to bolster farm incomes. For farms specialising in cereals and dairy, the loss is likely to be the highest.

A study, titled Preparing for Brexit​, by the independent London-based analysts Agra Europe, last year found that a British exit from the EU would have a devastating effect on the nation’s farmers, leaving only the most efficient 10% able to survive without the multi-billion pound subsidies currently handed out by Brussels.

The effects of the referendum will be far reaching, impacting all industries across the country. A vote to remain is a vote for stability in an outward facing, strong country. Leaving would put all this at risk, and is a leap in the dark.

Meanwhile, FoodManfacture.co.uk will publish a guest article arguing in favour of leaving the EU shortly.

  • Sir Stuart Rose is the chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe. He is the former executive chairman of Marks & Spencer. He was knighted in 2008 for his services to the retail industry, and created a life peer on September 17 2014. He has extensive experience in the food and drinks industry, and is campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU. 

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