Prospect of ‘no deal’ Brexit draws renewed concern from industry

With just over a month to go until the UK is set to leave the EU, we are incredibly still no further from knowing when, if at all, Brexit will finally be delivered.

As I’ve previously written, this has left many businesses across a wide spectrum of industries including the confectionery and bakery sectors across Europe with considerable anxieties.

Sadly, despite repeated warnings from the UK’s Food and Drink Federation and other major trade bodies including the CBI and Institute of Directors, these fears seem no closer to being alleviated as we approach the ‘final frontier’ of Britain’s scheduled departure date at the end of March.

To place this in context, in 2017 the EU exported €41 billion worth of agri-food products to the UK across the food and drink sector, with some €17 billion in equivalent goods travelling to the continent from Britain during that period.

The present scenario facing the UK has been likened by some as a game of high stakes political poker, and has been repeatedly pointed out, is something that could have been entirely avoided.

Regardless of how anyone voted in the 2016 referendum, the fact that the government failed to clearly spell out its exit position two years ago after triggering Article 50 that set Brexit in motion, has led us to toward the unenviable political impasse we are now facing.

As we have reported in Confectionery Production, the potential effects on the just-in-time supply chain of leaving without a deal are indeed significant.

This includes an immediate effect on a number of food items including within the confectionery sector (see the case of Mars bars requiring swift time-sensitive ingredient delivery across Europe as one prominent example), which remain of particular industry concern.

This has led to a number of manufacturers such as Ferrero and the owner of Cadbury, Mondelez International, stockpiling chocolate in a bid to navigate potential trading difficulties.

So, it is little surprise to see organisations such as FoodDrinkEurope, representing the entire EU agri-food sector, again warn of the grave consequences of not delivering business certainty.

Consequently, it is perhaps inevitable that many observers have now narrowed the odds considerable on the whole process of Brexit being delayed in order for a way forward to be found.

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