Farming looks to future as Article 50 triggered
Farm leaders have urged the government to recognise the importance of food and farming after Prime Minister Theresa May finally triggered the Article 50 exit process that will see the UK leave the European Union.
Brussels was formally notified on 29 March that the UK wishes to leave the EU. Negotiations are expected to take at least two years, and any deal between the UK and EU must then be rubber stamped by the remaining 27 EU member states.
As Article 50 was triggered, food and farming leaders teamed up to warn the government that a post-Brexit free trade deal that delivers two-way tariff-free trade between the the UK and the European Union is vital to avoid costly customs duties.
The joint statement signed by the NFU, British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drink Federation highlights the strategic importance for the UK of the food supply chain – and the need for a deal across a number of priority areas.
The three organisations say they are committed to ensure that post-Brexit domestic food production is competitive, profitable and fully meets the demands of British consumers. But the statement warns: “Nevertheless, we cannot operate in isolation.”
An NFU spokesman explained: “We’ve endorsed a statement from a coalition of leading food supply chain organisations outlining the core objectives and priorities for UK trade policy in the post-Brexit world.”
The statement describes the contribution of food and farming to the UK economy. It adds: “Our farmers need imported feed and inputs and they need access to other markets for their products, especially where demand for these in the UK is insufficient.”
The food supply chain not only employs almost four million people and generates over £100 billion of value for the economy each year, but keeps the nation fed – ensuring consumers have access to a wide range of nutritional, quality foods at affordable prices.
The statement calls on the government to adopt an approach that will ensure stability and continuity for UK agri-food and drink businesses. It says customs duties must be avoided by securing an ambitious bilateral free trade agreement with the EU that delivers two-way tariff-free trade.
The letter says the government must ensure a smooth and orderly Brexit. This should include transitional arrangements that maintain frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU, avoiding costly and disruptive customs checks, processes and procedures.