Leading Brexit campaigner Owen Paterson, Conservative Member of Parliament for North Shropshire and former secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, explained how food and drink manufacturers would benefit from Brexit.
Leaving the EU would offer Britain the opportunity to grow food and drink exports more quickly, improve national defences against plant and animal diseases, benefit from the latest scientific advances and allow government to support the nation’s food producers more effectively, he argued.
Negotiate better deals
Quitting the EU will allow Britain to negotiate better deals with more flexibility on tariffs, he claimed. The UK food and drink industry could look forward to growing exports, which had already doubled to reach a value of £18bn over the past 10 years.
“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.”
Voting Leave will allow the UK 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.”
Quitting the EU would also offer the opportunity to harness the latest scientific advances to improve the productivity of the food sector, he argued.
‘Hampered by EU-scepticism of 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.
‘Bright future after Brexit’
“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.”
- Owen Paterson
“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.”
The UK would be able to adopt the “innovation principle” whereby UK governments can weigh both the risks and benefits of any proposed new technology against the risks and harms of existing technology.
Brexit could even allow the UK government to raise support payments to farmers who underpin the food industry. Those payments could be “allocated in a much more effective and targeted manner by policy makers with a full understanding of the UK industry and environment”.
That support should mirror the payments currently made by non-EU countries – including Switzerland, Norway and Iceland – “who are more generous [in the level of their payments] than the EU …”, he said.
Finally, he argued Brexit would afford Britain an opportunity to “re-establish a new relationship with our European neighbours, based on trade and cooperation”.
‘Flourish once again’
Paterson concluded: “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.”
Arguing for the UK to remain within the EU, Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of Britain Stronger in Europe and former executive chairman of Marks & Spencer, highlighted the benefits of maintaining access to the EU market of 500M customers.
EU membership – allowing us to trade more easily with Europe – was “vital for the success of the sector”, he claimed.
Leaving the EU would result in higher tariffs and trade barriers, which would make key commodities more expensive.
It would also “hit trade, investment, and the stability on which businesses rely”.
How Brexit will benefit the food and drink industry by Owen Paterson
- Enable food and drink exports to grow more quickly
- Strengthen national defences against plant and animal diseases
- Benefit from the latest scientific advances
- Support the nation’s food producers more effectively