FDF wants ‘explicit agreement’ on market access during Brexit transition

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

FDF cautiously optimistic on Brexit transition deal ©iStock/Gutzemberg
FDF cautiously optimistic on Brexit transition deal ©iStock/Gutzemberg

Related tags International trade European union

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has welcomed assurances from the UK government that Britain will remain inside the customs union during a Brexit transition period. However, the industry body also warned that unless “explicit agreement” is reached, UK food and drink makers could still be treated as “on a par” with third country arrangements.

The FDF was quick to praise today’s speech from Brexit Secretary David Davis, during which he said the UK will remain within EU trade and customs rules during the Brexit transition period. Davis said the UK and EU would continue to trade on "current terms​", including the contentious issue of the jurisdiction of European courts.

"Of course maintaining access to each other's markets on current terms means we will replicate the effects of the EU customs union during the implementation period,​" Davis said.

A spokesperson for the FDF said that a “smooth transition”​ maintaining the status quo until “new trading arrangements are in place”​ is “absolutely vital​” for the UK’s 6,800 food and drink manufacturers.

“Our members’ competitiveness relies upon frictionless trade in ingredients and finished products – nowhere is this more stark than on the island of Ireland. We urge the negotiating teams to work swiftly so business can have confidence in day one readiness on both sides of the Channel​,” the spokesperson commented.

However, the FDF also stressed that UK negotiators must work to ensure the country’s food makers are not disadvantaged by the terms of the transition deal.

“Unless we secure explicit agreement in the negotiations, then throughout transition UK food and drink will be treated by the EU as on a par with existing third country requirements, creating huge logistical challenges and costs. We also need reassurances that the UK will have continued access to the highly valuable free trade deals which the EU has with other countries. These provide manufacturers with essential ingredients which often can’t be sourced here or which we do not have the capacity to produce,” ​the spokesperson said.

Future trading prospects

Davis used his speech in Middlesbrough to cast a positive image of Britain’s future trading opportunities.

“As an independent country, no longer a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom will once again have its own trading policy,"​ he said. "For the first time in more than 40 years, we will be able to step out and sign new trade deals with old friends, and new allies, around the globe.”

However, pro-Brexit Conservative MPs have been quick to attack Davis over the fact that the UK will be unable to implement any new trade deal until the transition arrangement expires in 2021.

Davis conceded: "Participating in a customs union should not preclude us from formally negotiating — or indeed signing — trade agreements. Although, of course, they would not enter into force until the implementation period has ended."

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