Brexit is ‘biggest problem in peacetime’: FDF boss

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Brexit presented Britain’s biggest peacetime challenge, said Ian Wright
Brexit presented Britain’s biggest peacetime challenge, said Ian Wright

Related tags: United kingdom

Brexit has left government and industry faced with the “most important, complex and troubling issue in peacetime history”, the boss of the food and drink sector’s biggest trade body has claimed.

Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said he couldn’t think of a similar parallel outside wartime – however, he suggested that the situation also threw up opportunities.

“This is one of the most serious, and challenging threats and difficulties we have ever faced, but we should be self-confident about our role in dealing with it. This is a fantastic industry, and we run wonderful businesses,”​ Wright said.

Wright was addressing delegates at the FDF’s ‘Exiting the EU’ conference, in London last month.

‘Asking specific and difficult questions’

“It is essential that we approach this challenge in a constructive spirit, and I think it’s really important that we do play the role of asking specific and difficult questions of government, and of holding them account to the answers,”​ he said.

“We don’t need a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit – we just need a good Brexit, and not a dog’s Brexit.”

Wright said he was focused on defending the industry against the accusation of price rises and profiteering, and in favour of industry and manufacturers getting a fair deal.

“I do not think it’s helpful and constructive to have retailers positioned as the shopper’s friend, and manufacturers positioned as the shopper’s enemy. It may give one supermarket extra share over another, but it doesn’t get us very far in the long run,”​ he said.

‘All to play for’

Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, told the conference that there was “all to play for”, ​so it was important not to become too pessimistic.

He suggested that food was so important, and so much part of the UK’s Europeanisation of the past 43 years, that industry should be arguing for a separate UK food law.

“Because we have so many statutes, so many regulations, so many quasi and legal factors framing the food system, we need to make sure that it has its own parliamentary scrutiny,”​ Lang said.

The industry also needed to be more consumer-facing and speak with a more unified voice than just the FDF or the British Retail Consortium, he added.

Related topics: Fresh produce, Meat, poultry & seafood

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Free Trade is Preferable...but More for the EU than the UK

Posted by Mark Gilbert,

If we come out of the single market and revert to WTO rules, the EU slaps a 10% tariff on our exports to them and we do the same on their imports. WE are a NET IMPORTER. Therefore, our net income from tariffs will outweigh our net losses and the UK government ends up with a higher net income which it can use to subsidise companies who lose out! We ALSO create a net disincentive to buy foreign goods and a net incentive to buy domestic goods and therefore bolster demand for British-made products and in two fundamental ways, if we leave the single market, WE WIN!!! Of course there will be some companies who benefit and some who lose but even for those who may be perceived to lose from this arrangement due to lower demand from Europe, the weakened pound makes up for the 10% tariff (with money left over)...Also, as a final point, the EU would be stupid to want tariffs (again, because we are a net importer) but IF they do feel they have to cut off their nose despite their face and "punish" us, then they are sending out the message that the only reason to remain in the EU is because you are being blackmailed to stay in because you'll be punished if you leave...and frankly, any club that needs to blackmail me to keep me as a member, I will leave out of principal - even if it could potentially hurt me in the short term!!!!!

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The SME voice

Posted by Bob Salmon,

Please never forget that many consumers, particularly the elderly, rely on the corner shops. Those shops and their suppliers need rules that they can work to economically. Any new UK rules must contain the flexibility that the EU laws allowed, not only to protect the 600,000 food SMEs but also to serve the public the better.

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