The deal struck included a commitment to a common rulebook for goods; continued harmonisation with EU rules, avoiding border issues; a joint institutional framework for UK-EU agreements and free movement of UK, EU and non-EU citizens. The FDF’s statement was issued before the announcement today (9 July) that David Davis had resigned as Brexit secretary, to be replaced by housing minister Dominic Raab, and that Boris Johnson had resigned as foreign secretary.
“FDF has been absolutely clear with Government in the run-up to the referendum, and in the many months since, that our fragile and highly integrated supply chains rely on seamless trade and common regulatory standards with our closest neighbours,” said FDF chief executive Ian Wright in a statement issued the following day.
“Nowhere is this more the case to and from the Republic of Ireland, where ingredients and products cross borders multiple times a day, north-south and east-west. The Cabinet agreement struck yesterday is therefore very welcome. We are greatly encouraged that Government has grasped the consequences for trade in agri-food …
“While there is more to do to finalise details, we are acutely aware that the negotiation clock continues to count down. We urge both the UK and EU27 to work swiftly to find common ground in a short space of time. FDF will continue to work constructively with UK Government and with our European partners to get the best possible deal for our businesses and for our shoppers.”
In addition to the areas already mentioned, the Chequers agreement also involved the proposal to treat UK and EU borders as combined customs territory. Under this approach, domestic tariffs would be charged on goods destined for the UK, but EU tariffs would apply for goods that would end up in the EU.
Davis’ resignation letter, published by the national press, stressed he believed it was unlikely the Cabinet’s current course of action would lead to honouring the Government’s manifesto commitment to leave the EU Customs Union and Single Market.
Davis said he also believed the current course would lead to control over UK affairs by parliament, as opposed to the EU, illusory rather than real and could lead to EU demands for further concessions.
Prime Minister Theresa May now faces a battle to win the support of a Conservative majority for the Chequers agreement and show she could garner cross-party parliamentary support for it.