Industry groups welcome October Brexit extension

Trade bodies have given a cautious welcome to the extension of Brexit negotiations to 31 October.

The European Council this morning (11 April) agreed to extend the Brexit process, and has said this extension could be terminated if the Withdrawal Agreement had been ratified before then.

This means the immediate threat of a no-deal exit – which could have happened tomorrow (12 April) – has been removed.

“I think, like everyone else, the threat of an imminent no deal being lifted is good news,” Federation of Bakers chief executive Gordon Polson told British Baker.

“However, the air of uncertainty has to be lifted as soon as possible. The government/parliamentarians must get to work sooner rather than later to resolve the present totally unsatisfactory situation.”

Alex Waugh, director of the National Association of British & Irish Flour Millers, said the association was relieved no-deal had been avoided for now.

“Things could still go wrong, however, so where businesses are setting up processes to plan for no deal they should carry on doing that – they now have more chance to get them finished,” he added. “If it had been Brexit day tomorrow, I don’t think those processes would have been ready.”

"Collectively in the UK we need to use the extra time to work out with what kind of future relationship we want to have with the EU.  It is indecision on this point that has been a major cause of our failure to reach an exit agreement."

The Food & Drink Federation (FDF) said food and manufacturers would be “mightily relieved” the threat of no-deal had been lifted.

“The additional time must now be used wisely,” added FDF chief executive Ian Wright. “Government and Parliament simply must give us a coherent plan to lead us out of our current mess.

“It must be a way forward that allows us to make progress in resolving the future of our relationship with the EU, taking full account of the needs of food and drink businesses.”

Exclusive research by British Baker has shown the industry has become increasingly concerned about Brexit.

Each January since the referendum, as part of research for British Baker’s Bakery Market Report, readers have been responding to whether they agree with the statement: “Brexit will have a negative impact on my business in the coming year.”

In 2017, 10% said they ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ Brexit would have a negative impact. In 2018, that figure rose to 29% and, in the survey conducted this January, rose again to 46%.

Meanwhile, the proportion who ‘disagreed’ or ‘strongly disagreed’ Brexit would have a negative impact on them has fallen from 56% last year to just 21% this year.

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