Trade organisations across the food industry have welcomed the historic Brexit agreement which was finally reached between the UK and the European Union (EU).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the deal on Christmas Eve and the process of ratifying the agreement took place over the following week. Announcing the new deal, Johnson said: “From January 1st, we are outside the customs union, and outside the single market. British laws will be made solely by the British Parliament, interpreted by UK judges sitting in UK courts and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will come to an end.

“We will be able to set our own standards, to innovate in the way that we want. We will be able to decide how and where we are going to stimulate new jobs and new hope, with freeports and new green industrial zones. We will be able to cherish our landscape and our environment in the way we choose, backing our farmers and backing British food and agricultural production. We have taken back control of laws and our destiny.”

Industry reaction

Responding to the agreement, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) chief executive, Ian Wright CBE, said: “UK food and drink is breathing a sigh of relief that we have a deal but we will hold the celebrations until we have scrutinised the detail. We must first answer key questions about which individual sectors of the industry will be unable to access the EU market without facing tariffs under the agreed rules of origin.

“We welcome the prospect of a more constructive approach to enforcing new rules, on both sides of the border. We hope for a much more collaborative relationship between London and member states with the minimisation of disruption at the border due to new trade frictions introduced as a priority.

“The Prime Minister promised UK businesses over a year of transition in which to adapt to a new set of rules. He has delivered us four working days. Food and drink manufacturers will do their best to keep food flowing. However, this week’s chaos at Dover and the last gasp nature of this deal means that there will be significant disruption to supply and some prices will rise. Disappointed shoppers and consumers will rightly ask why a deal had to take so long.”

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, added: “After years of campaigning for zero-tariff trade, we welcome the announcement of a free-trade agreement between the UK and EU. This protects consumers on both sides of the Channel from billions in import tariffs on everyday goods. Given that four-fifths of UK food imports come from the EU, the announcement should afford households around the UK a collective sigh of relief.

The EU is our largest trading partner and we have been clear throughout negotiations that maintaining tariff-free access to the EU market is absolutely crucial for our food and farming industry.”

“The UK and EU Governments have taken a crucially important step in agreeing a zero-tariff agreement, to the benefit of customers all over Europe. They must now work to implement this new arrangement as soon as possible, ensuring there are no tariffs from Day 1, and finding new ways to reduce the checks and red tape that we’ll see from the 1st January. The BRC and the rest of the retail industry will be scrutinising the terms of this deal in the coming days.”

National Farmers Union president, Minette Batters, said: “The successful conclusion of a deal between the UK and EU is very positive news for British agriculture. The EU is our largest trading partner and we have been clear throughout negotiations that maintaining tariff-free access to the EU market is absolutely crucial for our food and farming industry, not only for farmers’ businesses and livelihoods, but for our ability to continue to provide a secure supply of quality, home-grown food for the nation.

“We will now analyse the details of this agreement to ensure it meets the needs of British food and farming. The tariff-free element will be a particular relief for farmers that rely heavily on the EU export market, such as our sheep farmers, as well as farmers across British agriculture that produce the safe, traceable and affordable food that underpins more than £14 billion worth of export sales each year to the EU.

“It does remain the case though that our relationship with the EU will experience a fundamental change at the end of the transition period and we do anticipate that there will still be disruption to trade at the border. New checks, paperwork and requirements on traders will add costs and complexity. It is vital Government does all it can now to prioritise exports of our high quality, perishable agricultural products to make sure that these products are not left languishing in queues at the border when the changes take effect.”

“A deal avoids the certain collapse of key export markets and tariff-related price inflation for thousands of food lines.”

Commenting immediately after the announcement, Nick Allen, chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), added: “We have been given very scant information surrounding Third Country Listing Status by the Government, with the official communication stating only that the UK has ‘successfully applied for authorisation’. This absence of crucial information from both the European Commission and from our own Government is highly frustrating and ties one hand behind our back when it comes to being able to prepare for Brexit.

“Simply getting Third Country Listing Status is just the first part. It’s the missing details that will make the difference between trade or no trade with the EU in January.”

Cold Chain Federation (CCF) chief executive, Shane Brennan, added: “Cold chain businesses will breathe a sigh of relief today. A deal avoids the certain collapse of key export markets and tariff-related price inflation for thousands of food lines. Above all we hope it allows a spirit of collaboration in working out how the new systems, paperwork and border traffic flows will work.

“The real implementation period for this deal starts now. Businesses must renegotiate commercial deals, rethink supply lines, retrain staff and restructure businesses.

“I know that in time our economy will thrive, because our great food, pharma and logistics businesses will make sure it does, but our food chain will be slower, more complex and more expensive for months if not years. Brexit is not done, the real work starts now.”