Food industry groups including the Federation of Bakers and the National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers have set out 10 Brexit negotiation priorities to protect the food and farming sector.

A letter, signed by 26 trade groups from across the UK food supply chain, stated that abrupt change would have “enormous consequences for our industry, its employees and for the choice and availability of food in this country”.

The letter was sent to MPs days after an academic study warned the implications of Brexit for the UK food industry were “potentially enormous”. The study, written by Tim Lang, Erik Millstone and Terry Marsden, described the UK food system as “like the rabbit caught in the headlights – with no goals, no leadership, and eviscerated key ministries”. It warned the UK was currently “sleepwalking towards a chaotic Brexit”.

The joint trade body letter noted that food and drink was the UK’s largest manufacturing sector and the largest employer in the service sector, employing four million people.

Looming skills shortage

“The opportunities for our industry are huge,” it read. “But uncertainty around the shape of our exit from the EU, the future of our domestic farming and fisheries production, and a looming skills and workforce shortage threaten the viability of our businesses.

“Our trading ties with the EU are deeply interwoven, in respect of both imports and exports. So, too, are the regulatory frameworks in which we operate. These complex relationships must be handled with patience and care.”

The trade groups have told MPs they “offer their expertise” to deliver 10 key priorities they believe are “deliverable by a government and parliament committed to securing the best possible outcome from Brexit”:

  1. Avoid any ‘cliff edge’ by securing an adequate interim and transitional period to help us prepare for a new relationship with the EU.
  2. Quickly negotiate the right to remain for our valued EU workforce and their families.
  3. Recognise the unique nature of our relationship with Ireland by agreeing a series of special solutions on workforce, regulation and borders.
  4. Deliver continued zero-tariff and frictionless trade across borders in both directions to give consumers the choice they expect, at a price they can afford.
  5. Maintain consumer confidence in UK food safety and authenticity through a stable, equivalent regulatory framework to ensure seamless trade.
  6. Work with us to develop home-grown talent and consult us fully over the needs of industry ahead of any new migration scheme.
  7. Support our ambition for an industrial strategy sector deal to harness our industry’s growth potential and improve productivity.
  8. Turbocharge exports support to help smaller food and drink firms take advantage of new opportunities so that we can grow our share of global trade. 
  9. Provide a competitive supply base and ensure reforms to UK farm support – and to fisheries management – take full account of the needs of the rural and coastal communities, planning and investment horizons.
  10. Maintain the UK as the destination of choice for multinational food and drink firms, and encourage inward investment to benefit our local communities.

The trade groups that have signed the letter are: Food and Drink Federation; British Meat Processors Association; Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association; Council for Responsible Nutrition UK; Federation of Wholesale Distributors; Seed Crushers and Oil Processors Association; Association of Labour Providers; Seasoning & Spice Association; UK Tea and Infusions Association; British Poultry Council; Potato Processors’ Association and the Snack, Nut and Crisp Manufacturers’ Association; British Frozen Food Federation; Confederation of Paper Industries; British Hospitality Association; Health Food Manufacturers’ Association; Provision Trade Federation; British Oats and Barley Millers’ Association; International Meat Processors’ Association; Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers; British Specialist Nutrition Association; Federation of Bakers; The Packaging Federation; British Beer & Pub Association; Proprietary Association of Great Britain; National Association of Cider Makers; National Association of British and Irish Flour Millers