Will the warnings of the UK’s food sector be heeded over Brexit?

This week is regarded as a highly important one surrounding the prospects of the seemingly all-consuming issue of Brexit and the UK’s relations with the EU.

While the drawn-out negotiations over the past two years appear to have yielded some progress, there remain a number of key areas of concern within the ranks of government.

Perhaps most pressing of these matters is Britain’s precise future trading arrangements with the rest of Europe – which remains a worrying unknown factor.

This has created considerable uncertainty for all spheres of business, despite news of a supposed breakthrough deal in Brussels this week, that will require approval from the UK Parliament. There is no certainty that this outcome will prevail.

Why does this matter so much across the food and drink sector including confectionery and bakery segments?

As we recently reported, Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, repeated his warnings on the consequences of leaving the EU without a firm deal relating to trade.

Put simply, he has underlined that a total of £13 billion worth of UK exports are directly threatened by the prospect of having to potentially revert to WTO trade tariffs, making British businesses – including those in the confectionery manufacturing sector, notably worse off.

Consequently, a raft of business organisations within the UK have been lobbying government hard on the issue.

As the UK’s Business secretary Greg Clark recently underlined at the Food and Drink Federation’s annual conference, companies operating within the sector play a major role in the UK’s economy, and their contribution should not be underestimated.

However, reports of Brexit minister Dominic Raab ‘not realising’ how important direct trading routes through the port of Dover in the UK are, have heightened fears even further that those closest to the negotiations do not have the fullest possible grasp on what industry requires in order to maintain its present level of trade with the EU.

With a total of around 40% of British manufacturing exports heading directly to the continent, maintaining those connections with key European partners is regarded as vitally important. Whether the much-championed deal for Britain pays significant heed to senior voices within the food production chain remains to be seen.

* Keep in touch at nbarston@bellpublishing.com or via social media @confectionprod

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