The Food & Drink Federation (FDF) has welcomed the agreement over a time-limited transition period for leaving the EU after Friday’s announcement that both the UK and the EU have reached a decision. But director general Ian Wright stressed the ‘ambitious’ timescales involved.
In a statement, Wright said: “The UK’s 7,000 food and drink manufacturers will welcome the certainty today’s agreement brings. As the first business group to call for the right to remain for EU citizens, it is great news that our 117,000 European workers and their families can have confidence about their future and that no manufacturer will face a cliff edge in recruiting and retaining talent.
“As the sector hardest hit by Brexit, a time-limited transition period has been at the top of FDF’s negotiation wishlist. We are very pleased that the agreement also protects manufacturers’ access to EU third country trade deals, worth £2.3 billion to our industry.
“However, there is much to do in a short space of time to strike an agreement which matches our current ease of trading with the EU, while opening up new markets overseas for exporters. 70% of our trade is with the EU – every day raw materials and finished products travel seamlessly over the Channel and the Irish Sea. Until the appropriate technological solutions can be found for the island of Ireland, then it is right to leave the option of a regulatory backstop on the table.
“The timetable is ambitious and governments will need to get a move on to make sure businesses, systems and infrastructure are ready – in the UK and on the continent. We need a mechanism to openly assess readiness through the 21 months in consultation with sector representative groups, with the option to extend this period where necessary, depending how quickly the nature of our future trading relationship with the EU is confirmed.
“Rightly, UK consumers will not tolerate a lack of choice on the shelves as a result of disruption at ports or customs, therefore the food and drink supply chain must be prioritised during the negotiations.”