(Brussels, 27 June 2018) Ahead of the European Council meeting on 28-29 June, FoodDrinkEurope underlines the importance of maintaining existing integrated production patterns and trade that is as frictionless as possible to Europe’s food and drink industry.
FoodDrinkEurope analysis and consultation show that this can be best achieved through ongoing regulatory alignment on food standards and a suitable EU-UK customs union.
In 2016, EU27 food and drink exports to the UK amounted to €31 billion while the UK exported €13 billion to EU27 – all while employing 4.24 million people across the EU. Imports and exports between EU27 and UK are essential to the functioning of complex supply chains. Just-in-time manufacturing on both sides depends on frictionless movements of ingredients and raw materials. Disrupting these established trading arrangements would have a much more significant impact on consumers in terms of access to the food they enjoy than can be demonstrated by statistics alone.
Ensuring continued regulatory alignment between the UK and the EU27 is essential to avoid the emergence of new regulatory and administrative burdens as well as time-consuming checks and inspections at border posts. We also recommend that the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) participate in the workings of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). This would allow future modification of regulation to be based upon a common scientific basis.
FoodDrinkEurope believes that a customs union is the best way to ensure certainty for business over the long-term, providing mutual market access for agri-food products free of customs duties, additional agricultural components or any other equivalent border taxes. Conversely, a Free Trade Agreement would include onerous rules of origin requirements, risk serious market disturbance in the UK and EU27 markets and would undermine the aim of avoiding a hard border on island of Ireland. With an EU-UK customs union and common tariffs vis-a-vis third countries, these issues can be prevented and harmful impacts for consumers across the EU and UK can be avoided.
Regulatory alignment on food standards, alongside such an EU-UK customs union, would enable a mutually beneficial outcome for food and drink manufacturers in the EU27 and the UK. It would also remove the need for a border on the island of Ireland, safeguarding the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement.
FoodDrinkEurope believes this to be the most sensible solution; one that would reduce the potential of a ‘hard Brexit’, protect this essential industry and work to the benefit of consumers in the EU27 and the UK.