The food and farming industry has welcomed plans announced by Theresa May in Florence today for a two-year transition period after we leave the EU.
Under the plans, trade with the EU would continue on current terms and EU migrants would still be able to live and work in the UK but they would have register with the authorities. The UK would pay a substantial sum to Brussels to ensure other member states are not left out of pocket by the UK’s continued close links.
NPA senior policy advisor Ed Barker said the speech would be broadly welcomed by the pig industry assuming it can be agreed with the EU.
He said: “This is good in some respects for NPA members, who can continue business as usual on imports and exports and maintain migrant labourers. However, the EU still has to agree to this as it does technically violate Article 50, which states the UK will have to have left by 2019.”
NFU president Meurig Raymond said farmers and growers were becoming increasingly alarmed at the prospect of a ‘no deal’ departure from the EU.
He said: “The implementation period that the Prime Minister spoke of will be crucial if we are to reach a Brexit settlement that backs British farming, although we await further details on exactly how such a transition will work.
“We believe at least two years is needed to ensure a smooth Brexit, while also agreeing a future relationship between the EU and UK which recognises their mutual importance in terms of trade.
“We were pleased to hear the Prime Minister say there is no intention to impose tariffs where none currently exist, which the NFU takes as a strong commitment to securing a free trade deal with the EU.
“We were also very interested to hear the Prime Minister’s commitment to maintaining free movement of people involving a registration system for new arrivals. However, the industry desperately needs more detail on how the immigration system will work both during and after the transition – vague pledges and offers are not enough if potential workers are to be reassured that they can legally take up the jobs on offer.”
Country Land and Business Association president Ross Murray said: “We welcome the confirmation of a two-year transition period once the UK leaves the EU in 2019 so that farmers can continue to trade their food products without being penalised. This is a necessary time which will provide certainty for farming businesses while the right trade agreements are put in place. It is vital that free and frictionless trade in agri-food products is maintained during this period to help farmers plan for the future outside of the EU.
Ian Wright, Food and Drink Federation director general, said: “We support the Prime Minister’s intent to move negotiations on. The clock is ticking and businesses need time to plan and prepare. The intention to negotiate an implementation phase based on our current arrangements with the EU27 is a welcome step in helping businesses manage the ongoing uncertainty.”
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier described the speech as ‘constructive’ and said the Prime Minister had shown ‘a willingness to move forward’.