UK food industry sets out Brexit priorities, urges government clarity

12 Feb 2018 | Tom Houghton

Farming and food bodies have urged the UK government to clarify policies that will affect the sector post-Brexit, warning perceived indecision is “already being felt in the sector as uncertainty and lack of clarity impacts business confidence.”

A group of 37 signatories – which include the National Farmers Union and the Food and Drink Federation – warned “Brexit presents an unprecedented challenge to the affordability, availability, and choice of food for UK consumers.”

A letter, published Sunday, touches on some of the most controversial issues surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU, including trade agreements, migrant labour, and farming policy.

The group called for the government to “maintain free and frictionless trade with the EU” and to “secure the benefits of existing EU preferential trade arrangements, at least until government can replace them with acceptable alternative arrangements.”

It touched on the sector’s disproportionate reliance on migrant workers – the number of which may be disrupted by a tightening of the UK’s migration policy – as it called for “ongoing access to an adequate supply of permanent and seasonal labour.”

Signatories also said they want no loosening of health, environmental, or animal welfare standards following the UK’s departure from the EU.

And, in a nod to the EU’s controversial Common Agricultural Policy, the group wants the UK to “operate under an efficient and proportionate regulatory system that is centred on scientific evaluation and that incentivises innovation and competitiveness.”

According to the statement, the food and farming industry employs 3.9 million people and is responsible for contributing £112 billion to the UK economy each year.