UK food industry calls for early Brexit deal with Ireland

Nearly one fifth of UK food and drink exports go to Ireland. © iStock

Heads of the British food and drink industry have called on the government to organise early Brexit trade deals with the Republic of Ireland.

Signed by leaders of 35 of the UK’s major food industry associations, an open letter addressed to the British government requested a ‘clear and early statement’ that maintaining trade with Ireland is a priority in negotiations.

Signatories included heads of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the British Retail Consortium and the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association.

The letter admonished the government against leaving negotiations too late and producing “a cliff-edge scenario that results in a sudden transformation to our trading arrangements with Ireland would be hugely damaging for our industry and for the wider economy on both sides of the border.

“New disruptive customs barriers, port health controls and other costly bureaucratic requirements that impede the movement of goods and workers must be avoided. They would disrupt established supply chain networks that operate across the UK and Ireland and would cause significant economic damage while adding to existing food price inflation faced by consumers.”

‘Seamless and frictionless’

Speaking in Dublin in January, UK prime minister Theresa May agreed with Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny there should be no hard border following the UK’s departure from the EU.

May said: “Of course there are elements of full membership of the customs union that would restrict our ability to trade and do trade agreements with other parts of the world.

“But I believe, and this is what we are working on, that we need to find a solution which enables us to have as seamless and frictionless a border as possible between Northern Ireland and Ireland so that we can continue to see the trade, the everyday movements, that we have seen up to now.”

Besides promising a ‘red white and blue Brexit’ May has yet to unveil any Brexit plans in detail, and plans for maintaining the current relationship with Ireland also remain in the dark.

‘We could go on.’

The letter highlighted the importance of UK agri-food industry to both the UK and Ireland, saying: “[The Republic] buys more from us than the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, Canada and Japan combined. Nearly a fifth of UK food and drink exports go to Ireland, with more than a third of Ireland's reaching UK shores. A quarter of all Northern Irish milk is processed in the South. More than half of Irish beef and cheese goes to the UK. The UK supplies 80% of the flour used in the Republic. We could go on.”

Matthew Evans, corporate affairs executive at FDF, told FoodNavigator: “This complete interdependence is essential to ensuring our food security and to feeding both countries. We are having continuing and constructive dialogue with Government around this issue and other matters of concern – whether access to workforce, a stable regulatory framework, or the future trading environment.

Article 50 has yet to be triggered. However, we believe the question of what will happen to trade between the UK and the Republic of Ireland once the UK leaves the EU is crucial and should be agreed at the earliest possible opportunity in order to provide certainty and predictability for industry.”

Food and drink is the largest industry in the UK, employing over four million people and in 2016 contributed over €20bn to the British economy for the first time in history.

Article 50 is expected to be triggered in the coming months.

Related News

© iStock

Is the era of cheap food over? Food Ethics Council says not just yet

UK mulls 'British only' filter button to encourage online shoppers to buy home produce

UK mulls 'British only' filter button to encourage online shoppers to buy home produce

BREXIT: What does it mean for European food & nutrition players?

BREXIT: What does it mean for European food & nutrition players?

57% of respondents say Brexit will have a negative effect on their business. Pic:iStock/AlexLMX

Brexit: What beverage companies think it will mean for their business

Smaller food and drink operators are more in favour of a Brexit than big manufacturers

Brexit backed by more smaller food firms

Fergus Ewing: Scotland is open for business and will continue working with colleagues across Europe

Brexit: ‘Scotland open for business’ with Europe

Brexit could spark a 'food industry crisis', warns the new report

Brexit could spark a ‘food factory crisis’


British food industry demands post-Brexit rights for EU migrant workers

Comments (2)

Phil Roberts - 17 Mar 2017 | 03:06

I thought we had to deal with the EU?

I was under the impression that you cannot have a special deal with one country in the EU but have to have the same deal with all 27 countries that will remain. And all 27 countries and their regional assemblies will have to ratify any deal. Or is it that nobody knows what needs to be done, either from Britain or from the EU?

17-Mar-2017 at 15:06 GMT

Rozalin Kostov - 16 Mar 2017 | 08:05

UK food industry calls for early Brexit...

Yes,Article 50 will be triggered and life will go on somehow. But when will negotiate the deals with Ireland or EU, never forget that you did not ask your children about Brexit and their post-Brexit future.

16-Mar-2017 at 20:05 GMT

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.