Business Groups Call On UK Govt To Avoid 'Worst Possible Scenario' Over Brexit

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Business Groups Call On UK Govt To Avoid 'Worst Possible Scenario' Over Brexit

A number of industry representative groups have voiced their concern over the UK government's Brexit strategy, following the publication of advisory documents covering 25 different areas, from trade to tobacco regulations, should Britain's divorce from the EU proceed without agreement.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab described the documents as a “practical and proportionate” approach to possible disruption that could arise in the event of no deal being reached, and said that he was seeking to address the "misinformation" about the consequences of no deal being reached.

Soil Association

In response, however, Chris Atkinson, head of standards at the Soil Association, a farming charity, said that a no-deal Brexit was the "worst possible scenario" for Britain, adding that the technical notices offer "no further clarity to businesses and provide neither reassurance nor advice on how to prepare for a potential ‘no deal’ scenario".

“The information outlined raises concerns that imports and exports to and from the EU may be held up for months," Atkinson said. "The critical issue of continuing recognition by the EU of the organic status of products certified in the UK is left entirely unresolved by this paper and a similar document that was issued by the EU some months ago.

"We are also concerned that a new UK-owned imports traceability system to replace the current EU system would need to be in place by 29 March 2019. In our view this is an unrealistic goal within the time frame. Delays could significantly hinder trade."


British Retail Consortium

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents the UK retail sector, was similarly effusive in its call for a deal to be reached between Britain and the European Union.

"Businesses can only plan based on the facts and securing a deal with the EU is essential to provide certainty and to protect UK consumers," said BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson. "Our food supply chain in particular is fragile and based on just in time principles, ensuring efficiency and economies of scale, bringing huge benefits to the British shopper."

Dickinson said that any delays brought on by additional red tape, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, "will have a serious impact on over one-third of our food imports," she said. "The Government's technical notices demonstrate the facts of a no-deal Brexit – reduced availability and higher prices [for] food and medicine, increased delays and red tape at borders, and a VAT bombshell for consumers and businesses.

"EU and UK negotiating teams must deliver a withdrawal agreement in the coming weeks to avoid the severe consequences that would result from a cliff edge scenario next March."


Food and Drink Federation

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that the publication of the notes confirms “what a grisly prospect” a no-deal exit would be for the food and drink industry.

“There is no sign of further progress on negotiating frameworks with the devolved administrations,” he said.
“There is no substantive information on mitigating the effect of 'no deal' on the island of Ireland, where the implications would be most significant.

“Specifically for food, today's notice about organic food certification makes clear that UK organic exporters may face a ban on their exports to the EU for at least nine months after a no-deal exit, while new approvals for certification are sought. These issues apply far more widely than just to organic food – any UK food that currently displays EU marks or logos will be in the same boat.

“Moreover, the UK food industry will doubt that the Government could replace TRACES (the EU Trade Control and Expert System that tracks the entire trade and certification process for animals, food, feed and plants) with a new, comprehensive, functional UK alternative IT system in time for the end of March.”


National Farmers Union

The National Farmers Union (NFU) said that a proposed 'cliff edge' scenario, as outlined in the government's papers, would be 'disastrous' for farm businesses, the economy and the wider society.

"While these notices are an essential part of Government’s plans for preparing for all outcomes, they serve as a sobering reminder of what is at stake for farmers in the event of a no deal," NFU president Minette Batters said.

“The technical notice for organic farming is a warning for us on the future of trade of all agri-food products - if all these products were subjected to the same problems in approvals and certification then this could result in effectively a trade embargo on exports to the EU. Not only would this be hugely disruptive but it threatens livelihoods and businesses in the UK.

“The absolute priority for the NFU continues to be that we maintain free and frictionless trade with the EU."



Elsewhere, ParcelHero, an international courier business, described the government's Brexit advice papers as 'the equivalent of “duck and cover” nuclear warnings’.

"If the Government thought its first batch of 25 documents advising businesses and individuals how to plan for the event of us leaving the EU without a deal would reassure people, they are mistaken," commented ParcelHero’s head of consumer research, David Jinks.

"The advice that people and businesses shipping items to the EU should ‘Engage the services of a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider to help, or alternatively secure the appropriate software and authorisations’ is reminiscent of Government advice to ‘Use tables if they are large enough to provide you all with shelter’ from 1980’s Protect and Survive government booklet'."

Jinks noted that just as with a nuclear attack, the business community hopes that "a no-deal Brexit is a worst-case scenario that never actually happens".

© 2018 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: European Supermarket Magazine.

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