The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) demanded that the Government kept its word that it would not put the UK’s food and environmental standards up for negotiation during trade talks.
Anne Godfrey, CIEH chief executive, said: “We are very concerned by rumours of Government backtracking on the vital issue of the UK’s food and environmental standards … there can be no trading away of these standards for a quick trade deal with third countries.”
National Farmers Union president Minette Batters called for British food production standards to form the benchmark of any future trade deal, to prevent UK producers from being undercut by cheaply made goods flooding into the country.
“We must not tie the hands of British farmers to the highest rung of the standards ladder, while waving through food imports that may not even reach the bottom rung,” she said.
EU trade body FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) urged negotiators to work towards a tariff and quota-free trade agreement in a bid to safeguard jobs and allow the industry to continue to drive the European economy.
An FDE spokesman said: “If the UK were to leave without a free trade agreement, and without transitional measures in place, we’d likely see a significant drop in food and drink exports and damaging implications for the industry.”
Job security was also a worry for the UK Warehousing Association, which warned the Government’s proposed points-based immigration system would lead to a vital worker shortage. Chief executive Peter Ward said warehousing and logistics firms needed access to low-skilled, low-cost labour from the EU, thanks in part to low youth unemployment figures in the UK.
“While it is hoped the majority of EU citizens currently working in UK warehouses and distribution centres will choose to stay in Britain by applying for EU settlement scheme status, the inability to recruit shop-floor operations staff from other countries will add to the recruitment pressure the logistics industry is already under,” he added.