The Food and Drink Federation’s (FDF’s) chief executive Ian Wright said that, while the agreement was a step in the right direction, uncertainty remained.
“Food and drink manufacturers will have to continue planning for a variety of scenarios until our politicians have cast their judgement on the suitability of this deal,” said Wright. “This will result in businesses incurring significant costs and devoting additional time and effort to such endeavours.
“Until the withdrawal agreement implementation bill receives Royal Assent, the spectre of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit looms large over our industry.”
Leaders to work together
Minette Batters, National Farmers Union president, welcomed the progress that had been made and stressed the need for the UK and EU leaders to work together to finalise a withdrawal agreement.
She said it was critical that the mayhem of a no-deal Brexit is avoided next year and the agreement paves the way for a transition period that maintains free and frictionless trade with the EU.
“Despite today’s progress, there is still much work to be done. I would urge all involved to remember the importance of British food and farming when considering their support for the new agreement,” Batters concluded.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) echoed this cautious optimism, but warned that any agreement that falls short of minimising disruption and economic damage to the industry would bring with it obstacles in terms of trade.
‘Away from the abyss’
FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “The draft withdrawal agreement may be a step in the right direction away from the abyss, but until we have been given the opportunity to study the text of the draft agreement it will be impossible to tell whether that step is significant enough to mitigate any of the extreme risks faced by our industry and others.”
While the food and drink industry has had generally positive response to the agreement, Prime Minister Theresa May still has to push it through parliament – a move that faces difficulty following the departure of two of her cabinet.
Shortly after May’s announcement Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab resigned from his position, stating that he could not “in good conscience support” the UK’s draft Brexit agreement with the EU.
This was soon followed by a raft of departures by other Conservative cabinet members, including work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and junior Brexit minister Suella Braverman.