While a fight raged on about the terms of the exit within the Conservative Party, concern was raised again about the impact on the food and drink sector.
In a speech delivered at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 26, Davis said he, the prime minister and the chancellor all wanted the UK exit to serve both businesses and the British people.
The minister said that the UK would be able to sign trade deals in the “implementation period” but none would come into force until it ended.
‘Own trading policy’
He said: “As an independent country, no longer a member of the EU, the UK will once again have its own trading policy. This is a vital aspect of this period.
“For the first time in more than 40 years, we will be able to step out and sign new trade deals with old friends – and new allies – around the globe.”
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29 2019.
An FDF spokesman said: “We welcome the clarity from government on its ambition for the transition period. A smooth transition which maintains the status quo until our new trading arrangements are in place is absolutely vital for the UK’s 6,800 food and drink manufacturers.
“Our members’ competitiveness relies upon frictionless trade in ingredients and finished products – nowhere is this more stark than on the island of Ireland. We urge the negotiating teams to work swiftly so business can have confidence in day one readiness on both sides of the Channel.”
The FDF added that it was concerned that unless an explicit agreement was made for the food and drink sector through transition, the industry would be treated by the EU on a par with existing third country requirements. This would cause “huge logistical challenges and costs”, it said.
“We also need reassurances that the UK will have continued access to the highly valuable free-trade deals, which the EU has with other countries. These provide manufacturers with essential ingredients, which often can’t be sourced here or which we do not have the capacity to produce,” he said.
Manufacturers organisation EEF had similar concerns.
“EEF stands ready to support the secretary of state’s commitment to a status quo implementation period for as long as the UK requires, and would call on him to quickly conclude the negotiation with the EU in order to provide the certainty on transition urgently need by manufacturers,” said EEF ceo Stephen Phipson.
“A significant proportion of manufacturers in the UK are part of highly integrated supply chains with Europe, which not only contributes to exports but also to inward investment and employment. Many of the current discussions do not fully appreciate this important co-dependency which involves everything from regulatory alignment, standards, customs and terms of trade.”