The food industry has reacted with cautious optimism following the announcement that Prime Minister Theresa May gained cabinet backing for a draft Brexit agreement.
Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the Food and Drink Federation:
“We would welcome any clarity relating to a potential agreement with the EU. While this is a step in the right direction, uncertainty remains. Food and drink manufacturers will have to continue planning for a variety of scenarios until our politicians have cast their judgement on the suitability of this deal.
“This will result in businesses incurring significant costs and devoting additional time and effort to such endeavours. Until the withdrawal agreement implementation bill receives Royal Assent, the spectre of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit looms large over our industry.”
Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union:
“Since the EU referendum, the NFU has maintained that free and frictionless trade for British farming is absolutely critical. This trading relationship allows British farmers to provide safe, traceable and affordable food to the public, all while adhering to some of the highest animal welfare and environmental standards in the world.
“It is critical that we avoid the mayhem of a no-deal Brexit in March of next year, and this Withdrawal Agreement paves the way for a transition period that maintains free and frictionless trade with the EU and provides stability for farmers and the wider economy.
“There is still a huge job to be done in negotiating the details of our future relationship with the EU: one that maintains free and frictionless trade, allows continued access to sufficient overseas labour where needed and supports farmers in providing jobs and driving growth in rural communities, providing the raw materials for a domestic food industry that employs 3.8 million people and generates £113 billion in value for the UK economy. I hope this Withdrawal Agreement will now pave the way negotiating a future relationship that secures all of these vital objectives.
“Despite today’s progress, there is still much work to be done. I would urge all involved to remember the importance of British food and farming when considering their support for the new agreement.”
Glyn Roberts, President of Farmers’ Union of Wales:
“The FUW has been consistent in its view that the best way to minimise disruption and economic damage to agriculture and other industries is to remain within the Common Market and the Customs Union after leaving the EU.
“Anything that falls short of that will bring with it obstacles in terms of trade and other issues, with inevitable consequences for our industry and economy.
“The draft withdrawal agreement may be a step in the right direction away from the abyss, but until we have been given the opportunity to study the text of the draft agreement it will be impossible to tell whether that step is significant enough to mitigate any of the extreme risks faced by our industry and others.”