Negotiations between the UK and the Commission can now begin based on the guidelines set out by the European Council. But any agreement must have the backing of a majority of the parliament and a qualified majority of the Council of Ministers before entering into force.
The UK and Commission have a two-year window to come to an agreement, after which Britain's membership will automatically come to an end unless the UK and the Council unanimously agree on an extension.
The associations which represents the interests of Europe’s food manufacturers FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) and Britain's manufacturers, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) had both spoken out against a vote to leave the EU in the run-up to the referendum.
FDF director general Ian Wright said the triggering of Article 50 provided industry with a definitive time-frame for the UK to exit the EU. “The clock is ticking," he added. "We hope this means we can move swiftly from the realm of speculation into one where real issues are being resolved.
“The results of the negotiation will have lasting implications - for our people, businesses and economy. Food is at the heart of our culture, identity and security. It is vital that the Government prioritises food and drink.
Wright said FDF would work tirelessly to help the UK government to secure the best possible outcomes on future trade, access to the right workforce, regulation and ensuring a seamless border with the Republic of Ireland.”
Mella Frewen, director general of FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) said: “EU-27 food and drink trade with the UK is worth some €45 billion, making it our largest trading partner. Exchanges both ways will be greatly affected by this decision, with economic consequences which still remain to be fully understood.
“The time has come for both parties to engage in meaningful negotiations, to create certainty for citizens and business. We encourage negotiators to work for the best deal, one that keeps barriers to an absolute minimum.”
President of COCERAL, the European association of trade in cereals, rice, oilseeds, oils and fats, Jaana Kleinschmidt said: “We look to the Council and EU negotiators to ensure adequate access for the UK to the EU Single Market and vice versa, including the prevention of tariffs, indirect taxes or regulatory barriers that could affect the trade and existing good business practices.”
If the UK decides it wishes to rejoin the bloc it will be subject to the same application process as other candidates.