In a letter to Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove, over 30 food and drink trade bodies have asked that any non-Brexit consultations be placed on hold as a ‘matter of great urgency’, until the current Brexit uncertainty is resolved.
The letter, which was signed by various food trade bodies such as the Food and Drink Federation, Health Food Manufacturers’ Association and the National Farmers’ Union, called on the Minister to view what they describe as a ‘potential crisis’ for the industry.
Representatives for the trade bodies concerned, assembled on January 31st for a crisis meeting and amongst those taking part were the PTF, IMTA and the BMPA.
The letter sent to the Minister follows:
Dear Secretary of State,
As representatives of a very broad swathe of the UK’s farming and food & drink supply-chain, we are writing to you today on a matter of great urgency and of deep concern to our members.
In fewer than 50 days, the UK will leave the European Union. The legal default is that we will do so irrespective of whether or not we have signed a withdrawal agreement and, at present, that no-deal Brexit looks ever more the likeliest outcome.
Businesses throughout the UK food chain – and their trade associations – are now totally focused on working to mitigate the catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit. Large amounts of time, money, people and effort are being diverted to that end.
At this moment of potential crisis for our industry, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ within government. Neither we nor our members have the physical resources nor organisational bandwidth to engage with and properly respond to non-Brexit related policy consultations or initiatives at this time.
Government has recruited many extra staff; we cannot. We very strongly urge you therefore to require of your Cabinet colleagues that a range of current and planned consultations that will impact food and drink, some of which are expected shortly, are firmly and clearly placed on ‘pause’ until this uncertainty is over.
A list of the relevant consultations of which we are aware is given in the appendix to this letter.
If government seeks to press ahead with these consultations it will be seen by some as a sign of bad faith and many organisations may decline to respond.
We are grateful for your assistance with this issue.
Commenting further on the communication, NFU director general Terry Jones told Food Management Today: “The NFU, alongside industry, has urged the Secretary of State to pause any non-Brexit related consultations until the current Brexit uncertainty is resolved.
“The NFU is committed to engaging with the consultation process on all issues affecting food and farming. However during the current climate we believe it is important for the Government to prioritise its resource, as we are, on avoiding a no-deal Brexit.”
The letter lists food and drink related policy consultations that are pending in an appendix, including proposals such as a tax on plastic items with less than 30% recycled content, and a proposal to further restrict the advertising of HFSS foods and drink.
Andrew Kuyk CBE director general at Provision Trade Federation, who also signed the letter, told Food Management Today: “One point I would want to stress is that this is in no sense an opportunistic way of seeking to delay or defer policy initiatives which might impact on industry. It is purely and simply a question of resources.
“Food companies and trade associations are currently working flat out to mitigate the huge uncertainties surrounding the Brexit process and to put in place robust and realistic contingency plans to maintain as much choice and affordability as we can for consumers in what is already a highly challenging situation.”
The joint signatories to the letter are as follows:
Ian Wright CBE Chief Executive Food and Drink Federation
Pete Robertson President Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers
David Camp Chief Executive Association of Labour Providers
Chris Stemman Director British Coffee Association
Walter Anzer Director General British Food Importers and Distributors Association
John Hyman Chief Executive British Frozen Food Federation
Jack Ward Chief Executive British Growers Association
Nick Allen Chief Executive Officer British Meat Processors Association
Richard Griffiths Chief Executive British Poultry Association
Declan O’Brien Director General British Specialist Nutrition Association
Nick Bennett Chairman Council for Responsible Nutrition UK
Judith Bryans Chief Executive Dairy UK
Gordon Polson Director Federation of Bakers
James Bielby Chief Executive Federation of Wholesale Distributors
Nigel Jenny Chief Executive Fresh Produce Consortium
David Thomson Chief Executive Officer Food and Drink Federation Scotland
Andy Richardson Chairman Food and Drink Wales Industry Board
Graham Keen Executive Director Health Food Manufacturers’ Association
Liz Murphy Chief Executive Officer International Meat Trade Association
Bob Price Director and Policy Advisor National Association of Cider Manufacturers
Terry Jones Director General National Farmers’ Union
Michael Bell Executive Director Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association
Dick Searle Chief Executive Packaging Federation
Andrew Curtis Director General Potato Processors’ Association
Andrew Kuyk CBE Director General Provision Trade Federation
James Withers Chief Executive Scotland Food and Drink
Simon Cripps Executive Chairman Seasoning and Spice Association
James Smith Chairman UK Flavour Association
Kate Nicholls Chief Executive Officer UK Hospitality
Dr. Sharon Hall Chief Executive UK Tea & Infusions Association