The proposals, set out in a position paper this week (August 21), drew praise from Dairy UK chief executive Judith Bryans.
Commenting on Brexit secretary David Davis’s plan to maintain tariff-free access to goods and services after Brexit, Bryans said: “We fully support the UK government’s stated aim of reaching agreement with the EU in order to secure frictionless trade in goods and services.
“Businesses need certainty around the legalities associated with ensuring they can continue to trade in goods at the point of Brexit. The EU is our biggest export market and recognition of the need for stability is welcome.”
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) cautiously welcomed the position paper. It praised the government’s recognition of the challenges facing the food and drink sector after Brexit, and that it was trying to mitigate against the worst-case scenario.
‘Worst case scenario’
An FDF spokesman said: “FDF’s priority is to ensure businesses can trade both finished goods and raw materials freely and without friction as part of any interim transition deal with the EU 27 [Member States] and through a future UK-EU trading relationship.
“However, as last week’s record export figures from FDF highlight, Europe is an essential market for UK food and drink and we are urging the government to secure a transition deal swiftly to protect consumer choice and to prevent any unnecessary disruption.”
UK’s four key trade proposals
- Free access to goods already in Single Market
- No duplication of activities for legal certainty
- Goods in circulation continue to comply with legislation
- No services restriction that may undermine deal on goods
Meanwhile, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) hailed Davis’s plans as a “significant improvement” on the EU’s trade proposals. But, any deal should be completed urgently to mitigate any uncertainty for businesses, it added.
CBI director of campaigns John Foster said: “The UK government’s position on goods is a significant improvement upon the EU’s current proposal, whose narrow definition would create a severe cliff-edge hitting consumers on both sides of the channel.
‘Stem the loss of investment’
“Both sides should agree to move talks on to interim arrangements as soon as possible to stem the loss of investment.”
The government’s position paper issued four key proposals on the trade of goods after Brexit.
Those were: continued freely-available goods placed in the Single Market before Brexit, avoiding duplication of activities to provide legal certainty, goods in circulation continue to comply with legislation, and no restriction on providing services that could undermine the agreement on goods.
The plan also included calls for consumer protections to remain in place, and for tariff-free access on products made before the UK’s exit from the EU.
But, the EU has refused to discuss future deals until citizens’ rights, the UK’s ‘divorce bill’, and the Northern Ireland border was agreed.
European Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein said: “The fact that these papers are coming out is, as such, welcome because we see this as a positive step towards now really starting the process of negotiations.
“But as [EU chief Brexit negotiator] Michel Barnier has said time and again, we have to have sufficient progress first on the three areas of citizens’ rights, financial settlement and Ireland, and only then can we move forwards to discussing the future relationship,” Winterstein reportedly told a press conference in Brussels.
Meanwhile, the FDF welcomed the government’s plan to rule out a harder border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
What they say about government’s trade position paper
- “Businesses need certainty around the legalities associated with ensuring they can continue to trade in goods at the point of Brexit. The EU is our biggest export market and recognition of the need for stability is welcome.”
Judith Bryans, Dairy UK
- “We are pleased to see that today’s paper recognises the challenges for UK food and drink products on the market at the point of exit and that government is considering how to mitigate against the worst case scenario.”
Food and Drink Federation
- “The UK government’s position on goods is a significant improvement upon the EU’s current proposal, whose narrow definition would create a severe cliff-edge hitting consumers on both sides of the Channel.”
Confederation of British Industry