Food and drink manufacturers ‘better off outside EU’

By Owen Paterson

- Last updated on GMT

Food manufacturers would have a brighter future outside the EU: Owen Paterson
Food manufacturers would have a brighter future outside the EU: Owen Paterson

Related tags: European union, Uk

The UK’s largest manufacturing industry, made up of mostly small and medium-sized firms, supplies over half of our food with a turnover of £85bn and employs over 3.5M people. 

Confidence remains high, as a recent report suggests firms are looking to hire thousands of new employees to increase its top quality produce, advance their world-class research and continue to improve productivity.

Compare this to the EU. The European Commission’s website states: “The EU food and drink industry is facing a decrease in competitiveness caused by a lack of transparency in the food supply chain, sub-optimal business-to-business relationships, a lack of attractiveness for skilled workers, and a lack of market integration across EU countries.”

Outside the EU, it will be essential to continue a significant level of support to reassure farmers that payments would be made by the UK government in the same way that non-EU countries, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, who are more generous than the EU, currently do. 

If appropriate, a sovereign UK government could actually increase rural payments, allocated in a much more effective and targeted manner by policy makers with a full understanding of the UK industry and environment.

Global regulation and access to the world market

The UK food and drink industry has successfully doubled exports to £18bn over the past 10 years.  In 2015, UK exports to non-EU countries such as Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Thailand increased by 14%, 25.1%, 19.2% and 121.9%, respectively. 

A further 49% of food and drink firms are looking to North America for export opportunities. When we vote Leave, the UK could continue trading with non-EU countries under current arrangements, but would then have the freedom to negotiate better deals with more flexibility on tariffs.

At a press conference in Berlin last week, German chancellor, Angela Merkel said you needed to be in the room to get the result you wanted. I fully agree. By voting Leave the UK would be able to regain its voting rights on the world bodies that determine global regulation. 

These include the World Trade Organisation, the OIE, the world organisation for animal disease, and Codex Alimentarius, the body which regulates guidelines relating to foods, food production and food safety. The same applies to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), which produces the marketing standards for agricultural produce, adopted by the EU.

Modern technologies and the innovation principle

UK food and drink companies have a strong reputation for research and development, a key driver of productivity, which produces impressive results at an industry level. British agriculture, brimming with potential, is held back by the EU’s prejudice against advanced technology and science. 

We have some of the best scientific innovation on the planet. With incredible institutions like Rothamsted Research or the John Innes Centre on our doorstep, amazing progress in genetically modified research is hampered by EU-scepticism of the science.

The obstinate refusal to adopt advances in technology means that Europe is becoming the Museum of World Farming. The precautionary principle gives European regulators the cover to restrict or ban anything at whim or according to whoever is exerting the most pressure. 

Instead, I would like to see the UK adopt the innovation principle. UK governments would have to weigh both the risks and benefits of any proposed new technology against the risks and harms of existing technology. 

We should seize this opportunity to re-establish a new relationship with our European neighbours, based on trade and cooperation. The UK can flourish once again as an independent state trading with our friends in the EU, while furthering and developing relationships with the 168 countries that are not members of the EU.

On June 23 the safest option is to vote Leave and take back control over our food and drink manufacturing industry.

Owen Paterson is the Conservative Member of Parliament for North Shropshire. A leading  Brexit campaigner, he served as the secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2012 until 2014.

Related news

Show more

Related products

Carbon Reduction for Large Energy Users

Carbon Reduction for Large Energy Users

ESB Energy | 12-Nov-2021 | Product Brochure

ESB Energy Business Solutions can help you meet your companies carbon targets by 2050. We offer a range of sustainable tailored solutions to reduce the...

Plant-based innovation: How to formulate for success

Plant-based innovation: How to formulate for success

Almond Board of California | 31-Mar-2021 | Insight Guide

The trend for plant-based shows no sign of slowing as consumers continue to place an emphasis on personal health, sustainability and ethics. But one formulation...

Related suppliers


Show more


Posted by Niko Tilkin,

What are you with commercializing new technologies if there is no market to export it to?

R&D has not been hampered, only the trade in new technologies has. There is little that a small nation as the UK will change in that matter. The EU is not the only region upholding a precautionary principle. No export, no income, no increase in jobs.. You better stay in the EU room if you want to make a change.

Report abuse


Posted by howard scaife,

What would be good for all in the food industry and help create & sustain jobs especially exports. Would be fair competition in the EU. We were promised it but
France uses it,s veto to block any competition or new ideas unless they are French. We are the innovators and should stop paying £350.00 million a week into the corrupt EU. Support jobs for UK workers and industry instead of bloated EU

Report abuse

North Shropshire

Posted by Robert Hinton,

It would be good if Owen Paterson talked to food manufacturers in his constituency occasionally. I don't think he reflects their view of what's good for them or their employees.

Report abuse

Follow us


View more