The NFU has welcomed the Government’s paper on future customs arrangements, which lays out plans for a transitional period that will maintain tariff-free trade in the years immediately after we leave the EU.
NFU president Meurig Raymond, who discussed the issue with Chancellor Philip Hammond recently, said: “The NFU, along with other farming organisations, has long called for a transitional deal that maintains as free and frictionless trade in agri-food products as possible and it is pleasing to see Government recognise the concerns of the sector.
“In recent discussions with the Chancellor, the NFU reinforced the need for a transitional arrangement post-Brexit that sees the UK and EU continuing to trade within a customs union, and I’m pleased to see the government appear to accept this as the best way forward.
“Such an arrangement would provide farmers and growers with the stability and continuity needed to continue running competitive and profitable farming businesses.
“It is crucial that swift progress is made on the current phase of Brexit negotiations so the crucial issue of the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, including the precise nature of both the interim and long-term customs agreements, can be discussed as soon as possible.”
Ian Wright, director general of the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said: “The UK Government’s drive for greater clarity on the Brexit process is most welcome. The proposals for an interim customs regime, if they can be agreed, go some way in protecting business from a ‘cliff edge’.
“FDF’s priority is to ensure that our access to EU markets is not undermined during the transition period. Ensuring a single point of change would help to minimise unnecessary disruption for businesses that have established trading relationships with the EU.
The real challenge will then follow in designing and negotiating a model that maintains these benefits beyond the transition period, delivering the same ease of trading that UK food and drink currently enjoys with the EU27, with zero tariffs and no new regulatory or other non-tariff barriers. As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, our success is inextricably linked to our ability to import and export raw ingredients and finished goods across borders. Nowhere is this more the case than with our Irish neighbours.”