FoodDrinkEurope, the European trade body, has issued a statement warning of significant food industry trade disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Ahead of vote by Members of Parliament in the UK’s House of Commons next week on whether to accept a deal agreed by British Prime Minister and the European Union, FoodDrinkEurope said the UK leaving the bloc without a trade deal needs to be “avoided at all costs”.

“The EU agri-food chain would like to point to the dramatic economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit for EU and UK farmers, food and drink producers, traders in agri-food commodities as well as consumers,” it said.

“In 2017, EU27 agri-food exports to the UK amounted to EUR41bn (US$47.06bn), while UK exports to the EU reached EUR17bn – this trade, and the businesses behind it employ 44 million people across the EU28, reflecting the degree of integration and complexity of the food supply chain.

“The exit of the UK from the EU without a deal will inevitably lead to significant trade disruption and a lose-lose situation for the entire agri-food chain.” 

It suggested “burdensome and unavoidable procedures”, such as official controls of goods, sanitary and phyto-sanitary inspections, veterinary certificates and import tariffs will lead to increased delays for checks at borders and raise the costs for both sides.

“The European agri-food chain would like to reiterate that a no-deal Brexit would be hugely damaging for both the UK and EU agri-food sector and must be avoided at all costs,” it said.

FoodDrinkEurope said agri-food operators across the EU27, and in the UK, as well as the relevant competent authorities will need sufficient time to adapt to the new conditions that Brexit poses and called for a transition period for operators and authorities to prepare and adjust. 

“It is important that during this period, the UK would continue to abide by existing EU regulations governing food production and to honour its existing commitments,” it said.