Key figures across the food industry have issued concern after Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that the UK could be heading for a no-deal Brexit.
Speaking after a summit last week, which Johnson had previously said was the deadline for a deal, he said that trade and security talks with the EU were over and that the UK should prepare to leave the EU without a deal at the end of the year.
In his address, Johnson said: “Given that they have refused to negotiate seriously for much of the last few months, and given that this summit appears explicitly to rule out a Canada-style deal, I have concluded that we should get ready for January 1 with arrangements that are more like Australia’s based on simple principles of global free trade.
“Of course, we are willing to discuss the practicalities with our friends where a lot of progress has already been made on such issues as social security, and aviation, nuclear cooperation and so on. But for whatever reason it is clear from the summit that after 45 years of membership they are not willing – unless there is some fundamental change of approach – to offer this country the same terms as Canada.”
Responding to the Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiations update, Ian Wright CBE, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “The Prime Minister’s statement signals that we are heading into very dangerous territory. The perils of a no-deal exit for GB food and drink manufacturing remain as real as ever.
“We need leaders on both sides to find a way past the current impasse in order to progress talks. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, shoppers will – literally – pay a heavy price. Imported food and drink from the EU will face eye- watering tariffs averaging 18% kick starting price rises. At the same time border delays and disruption will bring further costs which will not be subsumed by industry. A no-deal outcome is bad for food and drink businesses, bad for food security, and bad for every household in Great Britain.”
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “It is deeply concerning that the Prime Minister is now telling businesses to prepare for no deal with the EU. There is nothing retailers can do to insulate consumers from the impact of £3bn of new tariffs on food in our supermarkets. Moreover, new checks and red tape that will apply from 1st January will create additional disruption in the supply of many goods that come from or through the EU. “Government must do what is necessary to agree a zero-tariff agreement, or else it will be the public that pay the price.”