Food and Drink Federation reveals concerns over ‘no deal’ Brexit tariffs

The UK’s Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has expressed concern over government plans announced surrounding the prospect of trade tariffs altering rapidly under a ‘no deal’ Brexit scenario.

Chief executive Ian Wright warned that companies across the sector did not have time to adapt to a new regime given just a couple of weeks’ notice.

In light of UK parliamentary votes towards seeking an extension to Brexit, the government has announced that it would make tariffs zero for 87% of imported goods (from a present figure of around 80%).

But the FDF chief executive criticised a lack of consultation on the issue, and urged the government to ensure that the UK does not leave the EU without a trade agreement.

Mr Wright said: “The announcement on tariffs underlines why the UK is not ready to exit the EU on 29 March. Business cannot adapt to this new regime in just two weeks. It is disgraceful; that we are, only now, getting to see these. There must be proper consultation with business before a change of this magnitude is introduced.

“We were promised that business would only have to adapt to one new change of rules; it’s now clear that promise has not been kept.

“This new system is confusing and complex. It includes some zero tariffs, some new tariffs and some quotas. Some foodstuffs qualify for partial protection and some not for any protection at all; with little logic to explain the difference. New tariffs will apply to some foods that are currently imported tariff-free, yet no tariffs will be applied to goods that cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is likely to result in massive trade distortions.

“In a world where it is costly and complex to export finished goods to the EU, and costly and complex to import key ingredients, many food and drink manufacturers who trade with the EU will surely question whether the UK is the right place for them to be.”

He added that this was further reason why parliament must act decisively to remove the threat of exiting the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019.

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