Food industry calls for frictionless trade with EU post-Brexit

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Frictionless trading and access to labour are vital to a succesful Brexit, said the NFU
Frictionless trading and access to labour are vital to a succesful Brexit, said the NFU

Related tags: United kingdom, European union, Eu

Free and frictionless trade with the EU and access to permanent and seasonal labour after Brexit are vital, according to a joint statement signed by members of the UK’s food and farming sector.

The Food and Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium are among 36 signatories of a statement by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) on Brexit priorities for the food supply chain. A full list of signatories can be found in the box below.

The statement came after representatives met at the NFU’s ‘Brexit360’ event at its headquarters in Stoneleigh last week (February 7) to discuss common ground in the industry.

Attendees agreed a number of high-level aims they urged government to achieve as the UK prepares to leave the EU. Of the aims, the NFU statement identified four priorities for the government in the coming months.

First, it called on the government to maintain free and frictionless trade with the EU and to secure the benefits of existing EU preferential trade arrangements with other countries.

Permanent and seasonal labour

It also urged the government to secure ongoing access to an adequate supply of permanent and seasonal labour for food and farming businesses.

A recent NFU survey revealed the number of seasonal workers was down 12.5% last year. The report also found that 88% of seasonal workers were EU nationals, with 66.9% coming from Romania and Bulgaria.

The group statement also called on government to continue to promote food production through agricultural policy alongside the UK’s existing high environmental and animal welfare standards.

Lastly, signatories agreed that businesses needed to operate under an efficient and proportionate regulatory system, which was centred on scientific evaluation and which incentivised innovation and competitiveness.

Crucial role for the food supply sector

NFU director of EU exit and international trade Nick Von Westenholz said the statement was a strong signal urging government to recognise the crucial role the food supply sector would continue to play in post-Brexit Britain.

“This is a strong coalition of 36 signatories that represent a huge range of food businesses, from farmers and agricultural suppliers to food manufacturers and retailers.

“And there is more to come; we have agreed to build on the principles discussed and agreed during the day, and to produce a shared manifesto harnessing the support of food and drink companies across the UK ahead of the EU Council in March.” 

Meanwhile, the UK’s customs system will not be ready for when the country leaves the EU next year,​ according to Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright.

Full list of signatories

  • Agricultural Biotechnology Council
  • Agricultural Engineers’ Association
  • Agricultural Industries Confederation
  • Animal Health Distributors’ Association
  • Association of Independent Meat Suppliers
  • Association of Labour Providers 
  • British Egg Industry Council
  • British Growers’ Association
  • British Meat Processors’ Association
  • British Poultry Council
  • British Retail Consortium
  • British Society of Plant Breeders
  • British Summer Fruits
  • Co-operatives UK
  • Crop Protection Association
  • Dairy UK
  • Federation of Bakers
  • Food and Drink Federation
  • Fresh Produce Consortium
  • International Meat Trade Association
  • Livestock Auctioneers’ Association
  • Maltsters’ Association of Great Britain
  • National Association of Agricultural Contractors
  • National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers
  • National Farmers’ Union
  • National Farmers’ Union Scotland
  • National Office of Animal Health
  • National Pig Association
  • National Sheep Association
  • NFU Cymru
  • Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association
  • Potato Processors’ Association
  • Provision Trade Federation
  • Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers
  • Scottish Land and Estates
  • Tenant Farmers’ Association
  • Ulster Farmers’ Union

Related topics: Supply Chain, Brexit Debate

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