UK food sector outlines priorities for Brexit negotiations

UK food sector outlines priorities for Brexit negotiations

Food manufacturers operating in the UK have outlined what they see as the industry's priorities for the country's Brexit negotiations.

In a joint letter, signatories from 26 representative bodies from across the UK food and drink supply chain - including the Food and Drink Federation, the British Meat Processors Association, the British Poultry Council and the British Frozen Food Federation - have agreed ten key priorities for the negotiations with the EU to protect the UK's food security and food and farming sector. 

"Our trading ties with the EU are deeply interwoven, as is the regulatory framework. Abrupt change would have enormous consequences for our industry, its employees and for the choice and availability of food in this country," the letter said.

"We write on behalf of the many thousands of businesses, large and small, responsible for producing, packaging, distributing, serving and selling food and drink. Food and drink is the UK's largest manufacturing sector and the largest employer in the service sector. Between us we employ four million people throughout the 'farm to fork' food chain and we do so in every constituency across the United Kingdom."

The letter warns that uncertainty around the shape of the UK's exit from the EU, the future of domestic farming and fisheries production, and a looming skills and workforce shortage threaten the viability of businesses in the sector.

"These complex relationships must be handled with patience and care. Abrupt change would have enormous consequences for our industry, its employees and for the choice and availability of food in this country," it said.

Its ten key outcomes are:

1.   Avoid any 'cliff edge' by securing an adequate interim and transitional period to help us prepare for a new relationship with the EU.

2.   Quickly negotiate the right to remain for our valued EU workforce and their families.

3.   Recognise the unique nature of our relationship with Ireland by agreeing a series of special solutions on workforce, regulation and borders.

4.   Deliver continued zero-tariff and frictionless trade across borders in both directions to give consumers the choice they expect, at a price they can afford.

5.   Maintain consumer confidence in UK food safety and authenticity through a stable, equivalent regulatory framework to ensure seamless trade.

6.   Work with us to develop home-grown talent and consult us fully over the needs of industry ahead of any new migration scheme.

7.   Support our ambition for an industrial strategy sector deal. to harness our industry's growth potential and improve productivity.

8.   Turbocharge exports support to help smaller food and drink firms take advantage of new opportunities so that we can grow our share of global trade. 

9.   Provide a competitive supply base and ensure reforms to UK farm support – and to fisheries management – take full account of the needs of the rural and coastal communities, planning and investment horizons.

10.  Maintain the UK as the destination of choice for multi-national food and drink firms and encourage inward investment to benefit our local communities.

"We believe these are all deliverable by a Government and Parliament committed to securing the best possible outcome from Brexit," the letter said. "We urge you to work with us as the negotiations proceed."