FDE backs Brexit extension ‘only if it contributes to deliver a more orderly withdrawal’

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages/Tanaonte
©GettyImages/Tanaonte

Related tags: Brexit, European union, Agriculture

The European agri-food sector says it supports a Brexit extension until 30 June on the condition it helps avoid “a non-orderly Brexit” – as is expected if the UK drops out without a deal next Friday 29 March.

The EU agri-food chain has voiced its concern that “the current context of uncertainty” ​regarding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is “very prejudicial to the EU and UK agri-food sectors”.

Just 10 days out from the Brexit deadline, EU industry trade groups Copa and Cogeca, which represents farmers and their cooperatives, CELCA – the voice of European traders in agri-food commodities – and the EU’s biggest food industry group, FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) have written a joint statement.

“The agri-food sector would certainly be one of the sectors most impacted by a non-orderly Brexit, due to its complex and highly integrated supply chains, its just-in-time processing and its dependence on perishable products,” ​writes the agriculture, food and drink delegates.

“It will ultimately be consumers in both the UK and the EU27 however, that will bear the brunt of Brexit, with disruption in access to the food they enjoy and, in some cases, that they need.”

May requests three-month extension

As it stands, the UK is due to withdraw from the EU next Friday 29 March.

Earlier today, however, UK Prime Minister Theresa May submitted a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, asking for more time – until the end of June 2019 – to get her withdrawal deal passed by Parliament.

During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) today at midday, May told MPs that if her request is accepted, she will not extend beyond three months, suggesting that additional delays would mean the UK would be implicated in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May.

“The idea…that three years after voting to leave the EU, the people of this country should be asked to elect a new set of MEPs is, I believe, unacceptable,” ​she told MPs.

“It would be a failure to deliver on the referendum decision this House said it would deliver.

“I have therefore this morning written to President Tusk…informing him that the UK seeks an extensions to the Article 50 period until 30 June.”

‘The best way forward’

FDE, alongside Copa-Cogeca and CELCA, supports the proposed three-month extension, on the condition it limits the current ‘uncertainty’ surrounding Brexit.

“The extension of Article 50 beyond 29 March could help the sector to prepare better for Brexit, but it should be granted by the Heads of State and Government only if it contributes to deliver a more orderly withdrawal, therefore providing predictability to operators.”

In the statement, the EU agri-food chain reiterated that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on the future, as it stands, represent “the best way forward for our sector”.

“Failing acceptance of this agreement, Copa and Cogeca, CELCA and FoodDrinkEurope will continue to call on the EU institutions to adopt appropriate unilateral contingency measures specific to the sector and to introduce market measures to mitigate the extremely negative impacts.”

“Finally, we urge both sides to agree rapidly on the future EU-UK relationship, and thereby provide clarity and certainty for businesses.”

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