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Food and drink supply chain calls for early agreement on future UK trade with Ireland

13 March 2017

The UK food and drink industry bodies, including FPC, have issued the following open letter:

A key priority for the food and drink industry is to secure tariff-free trade with the EU, which remains our largest external market and our largest source of imported supplies.

This is of particular importance in the case of the Republic of Ireland, our only land border with the EU. It buys more from us than the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Japan combined. Nearly a fifth of UK food and drink exports go to Ireland, with more than a third of Ireland’s reaching UK shores. A quarter of all Northern Irish milk is processed in the South. More than half of Irish beef and cheese goes to the UK. The UK supplies 80 per cent of the flour used in the Republic. We could go on.

The seamless single market in food and drink across the UK and Ireland allows the free movement of goods and workers. It also means that the majority of food sourced in Ireland from EU and international sources, particularly fresh produce, arrives via ports and supply chains from across the whole of the UK. This complete interdependence is essential to ensuring our food security and to feeding both countries.

We represent the UK’s agri-food and drink sector. It employs 4 million people or 13.5 per cent of the UK workforce. Our industry needs Government to ensure existing tariff-free trading arrangements between the UK and Ireland are maintained.

New disruptive customs barriers, port health controls and other costly bureaucratic requirements that impede the movement of goods and workers must be avoided. They would disrupt established supply chain networks that operate across the UK and Ireland and would cause significant economic damage while adding to existing food price inflation faced by consumers.

A cliff-edge scenario that results in a sudden transformation to our trading arrangements with Ireland would be hugely damaging for our industry and for the wider economy on both sides of the border.

In the event that new customs requirements cannot be avoided, continuity and predictability for business must be a priority. Government would need to evaluate the administrative and regulatory requirements and put in place robust plans to deliver transitional arrangements that minimise disruption and provide sufficient time to allow businesses to adapt.

We are pleased that the Prime Minister is seeking a ‘frictionless’ border between the UK and Ireland post-Brexit. It is imperative that once Article 50 is triggered the future border arrangements are high on the target list for prompt resolution. Government should make a clear and early statement of principle that it is committed to maintaining this trade with Ireland and that it will make it a priority in negotiations.

Co-signed by chief executives of the following organisations:

Ian Wright - Director General, Food and Drink Federation

David Caffall - Chief Executive, Agricultural Industries Confederation

James Smith - President, Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers

David Camp - Chief Executive, Association of Labour Providers

Kate Nicholls - Chief Executive, Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers

Andy Tighe - Policy Director, British Beer and Pub Association

Ufi Ibrahim - Chief Executive, British Hospitality Association

Nick Allen - Chief Executive, British Meat Processors Association

Richard Griffiths - Chief Executive, British Poultry Council

Helen Dickinson - Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium

Gavin Partington - Director General, British Soft Drink Association

Declan O’Brien - Director General, British Specialist Nutrition Association

Sam Jennings - Technical Adviser, Council for Responsible Nutrition UK

Judith Bryans - Chief Executive, Dairy UK

Gordon Polson - Director, Federation of Bakers

James Bielby - Chief Executive, Federation of Wholesale Distributors

Andy Richardson - Chair, Food and Drink Wales Industry Board

Nigel Jenney - CEO, Fresh Produce Consortium

Graham Keen - Executive Director, Health Food Manufacturers’ Association

Liz Murphy - CEO, International Meat Trade Association

Alex Waugh - Director General, National Association of British and Irish Millers

Bob Price  - Director and Policy Adviser, National Association of Cider Makers

Terry Jones - Director General, National Farmers’ Union

Michael Bell - Executive Director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association

Connal Donnelly - Executive Director, Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association

Dick Searle - Chief Executive, Packaging Federation

Michael Bellingham -  Chief Executive, Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association

John Smith - Chief Executive, Proprietary Association of Great Britain

Andrew Kuyk - Director General, Provision Trade Federation

Julie Hesketh-Laird - Acting CEO, Scotch Whisk Association

Simon Cripps - Chairman, Seasoning and Spice Association

Steve Morgan - Chair, UK Flavour Association

John Whitehead - Director, UK Food and Drink Exporters Association

Wesley Aston - Chief Executive, Ulster Farmers’ Union

Miles Beale - Chief Executive, Wine and Spirit Trade Association

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