The FDF said avoiding any “cliff edge” transition effect was key to the food industry in the wake of the UK’s exit from the EU.
FDF director general Ian Wright said: “Food is a matter of national security. Food and farming is the sector most impacted by exiting the EU. It is imperative that the new government recognises this, and the importance of the food and drink industry in relation to the success of the wider UK economy.
“The next six weeks are the pivotal time for the food and drink industry to make its case to those who aspire to form the next government – a government which will lead us through Brexit negotiations and the uncertain period that follows.”
The FDF’s five-point manifesto included: securing the best possible Brexit deal, tackling obesity, increasing exports, supporting an industrial strategy sector deal, and developing home-grown talent.
Securing the best possible Brexit deal was the FDF’s number one policy for the new government. Almost one third of the sector’s 117,000 workforce are non-UK EU workers, and the FDF urged the next government to guarantee the right of those workers to remain in the UK. It also wanted a special trade deal with the Republic of Ireland, and a tariff-free trade agreement with the EU.
To tackle obesity, the next government would need to work with industry by providing manufacturers with long-term expectations on calorie reductions, the FDF said. The government needed to provide financial certainty to the food and drink industry by confirming there would be no more nutrient taxes, it added.
Increasing export support to take advantage of increased demand for UK products overseas was the FDF’s third policy. ‘Turbo-charging’ sector-specific exports support would help smaller businesses to take advantage of the new opportunities that Brexit was expected to create, said the FDF.
The new government should support the FDF’s ambition for an industrial strategy sector deal, it said. It urged the government to work with it and its food chain partners to deliver a safe, secure, affordable, resilient and sustainable food chain.
Developing home-grown talent, and increasing the number of apprenticeships, was the FDF’s final policy. The food and drink sector would require 140,000 new recruits by 2024, it said, and the government should increase the number of apprentices from 1% of the total workforce to 3%.
Wright said: “We urge policymakers and candidates of all parties to join us in our shared mission: to continue to provide consumers with safe, affordable and nutritious food and drink and unlock our growth and productivity potential.”
FDF five-point manifesto
- Securing the best possible Brexit deal
- Tackling obesity
- Increasing exports
- Supporting an industrial strategy sector deal
- Developing home-grown talent