During the speech Theresa May said the UK wanted the freedom to negotiate trade agreements with other countries around the world.
“We want to take back control of our laws,” she said. “We also want as frictionless a border as possible between us and the EU – so that we don’t damage the integrated supply chains our industries depend on and don’t have a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.”
She said leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy would bring the opportunity to reform the UK’s agriculture and fisheries management.
“The UK has among the highest environmental and animal welfare standards of any nation on earth. As we leave the EU, we will uphold environmental standards and go further to protect our shared natural heritage. And I fully expect that our standards will remain at least as high as the EU’s.”
However, National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters called for more details for the farming industry, which she described as the “bedrock” of the manufacturing sector.
“We absolutely need to get this right if farming is to keep delivering for Britain’s economy, environment and food security,” Batters added.
“However, there are less than 400 days to go until Brexit. Time is now ticking for the diverse range of businesses that make up the British food and farming sector. Many farmers are now making business decisions for the next five or even 10 years without knowing what trading environment they will be operating in.”
Ian Wright, Food and Drink Federation director general, said: “Food and drink is at the heart of our national security – the first duty of the government is to ensure the country is fed and watered.
“The UK’s consumers and shoppers – as well as its 7,000 food and drink manufacturers – therefore cannot afford any ‘cliff edge’ scenario which affects our ability to provide the country with the choice, quality and availability of food and drink they have come to expect and enjoy.
“The EU is our largest customer, buying 70% of our food and drink exports. On the island of Ireland, people, ingredients and finished products cross the border multiple times every day and a solution that ensures this continues must urgently be found.
“The Prime Minister has set out her unique vision for open trade and proposed new customs arrangements with the EU. However, this depends on technology and goodwill – neither of which can be guaranteed in the time available.”
In a statement, Dairy UK said the departure from the EU must not be at the expense of food safety, farming or animal welfare standards. It welcomed the commitment to standards and that the UK would continue to work with the EU to remain in-step with new regulations.
Dairy UK said: “This is extremely important to the dairy sector, as divergence could create non-tariff barriers that disadvantage the UK dairy industry.
“Although the Prime Minister has put forward options, we still lack certainty on tariffs and trade, with increasingly little time left to finalise a deal. Until we have agreement between the EU and ourselves on a Customs Union, uncertainty prevails, and the dairy industry will not be able to adequately plan for its long-term future.”