Johnson: "Getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people"

Johnson: "Getting Brexit done is now the irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable decision of the British people"

The trade body representing food manufacturers operating in the UK has "congratulated" Boris Johnson for his election victory but expressed concerns about the kind of trade deal with the EU that could be done by the Prime Minister's end-of-2020 deadline.

Johnson, who yesterday led The Conservative Party to a solid majority in the UK's lower house, The House of Commons, is to push ahead for the country to leave the EU by the end of January. The Prime Minister has also insisted he is able to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020.

In a statement issued by The Food and Drink Federation this morning, chief operating officer Tim Rycroft said: "We congratulate the Prime Minister and his Government on the result of the General Election 2019. For too long, business has been mired in a sea of political uncertainty, hitting investment, productivity and long-term growth."

The Conservative Party's majority, which at the time of writing stands at 79, means Johnson is all but certain to secure parliamentary approval for the withdrawal deal he struck with the EU in October in order to leave the bloc by the end of January.

The EU has said it wants to start trade talks with the UK by March, meaning any agreement would have ten months to be reached and then approved by parliaments on both sides of the English Channel.

Trade deals with the EU usually take years and Brussels has expressed scepticism about whether an agreement with the UK could be reached by the time the transition period for the country's departure elapses at the end of 2020. There are a number of areas where the UK and the EU, at present, disagree on how trade could take shape, including fisheries and rules of origin.

Dominic Goudie, the head of international trade at the FDF, said "securing the best possible outcome for future trade with our closest and most important EU trade partners" is the association's "top priority".

Goudie added: "Government will need to deliver a comprehensive deal with the EU which secures tariff-free trade based on generous rules of origin as set out in our detailed proposals."

Agreement on rules of origin will be critical given many UK foods contain ingredients not grown or sourced domestically. The FDF has said the EU and the UK must ensure any origin requirements imposed on trade between the two markets are "cumulative, meaning that goods originating in either market are treated as originating in both for the purposes of meeting origin requirements".

The association gives the example of French wheat used in a UK biscuit, which it says should be treated as local content in the free-trade zone created by a trade deal and vice versa. 

Goudie continued: "Such a deal will need to go further than other EU free-trade agreements to minimise costly non-tariff barriers by ensuring dynamic regulatory equivalence and delivering a level playing field in terms of labour laws, animal welfare and environmental protections.

"Delivering such a comprehensive agreement before the end of 2020 appears extremely challenging given typical EU trade negotiation timescales. Doing this in parallel to negotiations with the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand will further complicate matters and risks overstretching the capacity of negotiators and crucially of industry, which must play an active role in informing the detail of negotiations."