The chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), Ian Wright CBE, has spoken of the concerns facing industry before and after Brexit.
During a speech at the Campden BRI Day Lecture on Wednesday, Wright, urged the food industry to work together ahead of the UK permanently leaving the EU in 2020.
Wright’s speech, titled A Whole New World: food and drink after Brexit, suggested that the industry has, over the years, become too comfortable in its successes, commenting: “We have come to believe that the UK’s extraordinary food and drink success story is just the natural order of things.”
He went on to discuss how Brexit will no doubt cause things to change and suggested that industry needs “to get our response to current challenges right”.
Wright stated that the food industry mustn’t be used as a method of bargaining to secure EU market access for the service sector or for manufactured goods.
He commented: “The only acceptable outcome is one that delivers: continued tariff-free UK-EU trade in all agrifood and drink products; continued access to EU FTAs (Free Trade Agreement) during and beyond the transition period; as frictionless as possible trade that avoids delays and added costs and no physical border in Ireland where the majority of goods traded are food and drink.”
Wright continued: “Industry must work together to secure a favourable outcome before the transition ends on 31st December 2020.”
Exports are vital for future growth and productivity in the UK food and drink industry, explained Wright, with total sales overseas reportedly worth more than £22bn each year.
According to Wright: “A successful outcome can only be achieved if as an industry we present practical, workable solutions for them (the Government) to table in negotiations.
“To maintain the significant levels of trade with the EU, regulatory equivalence on issues such as food safety and labelling are key.
“We therefore need the minimum possible future divergence in those standards, until we are confident that the Government and the EU27 have the right mechanisms to ensure regulatory equivalence without impacting on the seamless trade we enjoy today.
The speech also addressed issues such as childhood obesity, suggesting that Brexit trade deals could also affect health, as well as the importance of building relationships across the food and drink industry.
You can read Ian Wright CBE’s full speech here.