Food and drink industry leaders have been giving their reaction to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with the EU ahead of tomorrow’s crucial vote in parliament.

Here is what they are saying: 

Ian Wright, CEO, FDF

“The UK’s food and drink manufacturers will welcome the news that a deal has been struck. They will hope that this means, definitively, that a no-deal exit on 31 October cannot happen. Our focus now switches to whether this deal can command the support of the UK parliament, and what the detail of the deal means for our members. Their objectives are securing frictionless trade and regulatory alignment with the EU, our largest market. They also must have access to the workers our industry needs.”


Andrew Opie, director of food & sustainability, BRC

“We are encouraged by the news of a potential agreement that could once and for all take no-deal off the table.”


Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive, BRC

“We are encouraged by the news of a potential agreement that could once and for all take no deal off the table. Retailers have already spent hundreds of millions preparing for a potential no deal Brexit and every passing day represents additional time and money which could be better spent improving customer experience and delivering the best possible value for shoppers.”


James Bielby, CEO, Federation of Wholesale Distributors

“It is good to see the Brexit saga potentially being brought to a conclusion and for wholesalers to get a clearer view of the future. The uncertainty surrounding the Brexit outcome has cost wholesalers millions of pounds in No Deal preparations this year, much of it sunk cost. If this proposal can command a majority in the House of Commons, we will be able to rule out a No Deal exit on October 31 which will be welcomed by wholesalers, their suppliers and their customers.”


James Hookham, deputy CEO, FTA

“FTA has been very consistent in wanting to keep Britain trading by making sure that the logistics industry can deliver whatever political solution for Brexit prevails, with or without a deal. It is clear that there is not time now to prepare for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October: there are many unanswered questions about how our borders should work, and no time to implement the answers even if decisions could be reached on important policy issues. Therefore, at this stage, leaving with a deal and the accompanying transition period for answering important questions and being prepared for the changes, is far preferable to a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

“Whilst there is still a chance of a no-deal Brexit we urge government to continue to respond to the critical questions and issues raised by FTA in our Logistics Dashboard. With big questions unanswered, and no time to prepare, the logistics industry is not ready for a no-deal Brexit on 31 October, and the impact on trade would likely be very significant.

“We will review the proposed deal carefully, and seek any clarifications and changes required by the logistics industry to deliver a successful Brexit.” 


Minette Batters, president, NFU

“The NFU is pleased to see that the UK and EU negotiators have come to an agreement on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, which might pave the way for an orderly Brexit and the avoidance of leaving without a deal.

“However, we must remember that if this deal is agreed by UK and EU parliaments in the coming days, it only determines how the UK withdraws from the EU and does not determine the long-term future of the UK’s and EU’s relationship.

“It is vital that government has a long-term aspiration to ensure that British farming standards are not undercut by an ambition to open up British markets to food which would be illegal to produce here and that there is free and frictionless trade with the EU in the long term.

“We have had precious little reassurances on these issues so far and we look to government to be clear about its ambitions for British farming, which provides affordable, safe, home-grown food produced to some of the highest standards in the world.”

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn DBE, director-general, CBI

“If agreed by parliament, this deal unlocks a transition period, guarantees rights of the four million citizens living abroad in the UK and EU, and opens a pathway to a new EU/UK partnership. It would keep trade flowing freely across the island of Ireland and, most importantly, avoid a damaging no-deal scenario.

“Yet business has serious concerns about the direction of the future UK-EU relationship. Decades of free and frictionless trade with the UK’s largest market, forged by thousands of firms big and small, must not be abandoned.

“Frictionless EU trade and regulatory alignment is vital for UK prosperity and jobs. The deal remains inadequate on services, which make up 80% of the UK economy. And big questions remain about the feasibility of negotiating a new trade agreement deep enough in a 14-month transition period.

“If this deal does pass parliament, firms will do everything possible to make it work for communities across the UK. Business will continue to challenge the government to negotiate the vital future partnership on the basis of economic evidence.”

Lord Stuart Rose, chairman, Ocado

“This deal isn’t ideal. There isn’t a lot of difference between it and Theresa May’s deal, but it’s the best deal we can get and it’s better than a hard Brexit and we need to move on. We can’t keep pushing this thing back down the road.”

Agri-food chain bodies Copa and Cogeca, CELCAA and FoodDrinkEurope (joint statement)

’We welcome the agreement that was reached today by the European Union and the United Kingdom chief negotiators. This deal paves the way for an orderly withdrawal, a principle that the EU agri-food chain has been repeatedly calling for, thereby providing predictability to operators. 

’In particular, the EU agri-food chain endorses the Revised Political Declaration, which confirms the ambition to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) with zero tariffs and quantitative restrictions between the EU and the UK. Despite the welcomed commitment to maintaining customs and regulatory convergence in future, we will not be able to replicate the advantages of the EU customs union and single market through an FTA. However, we hope to find a solution that is as close as possible to the current customs and regulatory agreement.

’A hard Brexit would have been detrimental for EU and UK farmers, food and drink manufacturers, traders in agri-food commodities as well as consumers. Looking back, in 2017, EU27 agri-food exports to the UK amounted to €41bn while UK exports to the EU reached €17bn. This trade, and the businesses behind it, employ 44 million people across the EU28, reflecting the degree of integration and complexity of the food supply chain.

’Copa and Cogeca, CELCAA and FoodDrinkEurope call for the swift ratification of this deal by the EU and the UK before 31 October. Everything must be done to prevent the UK from leaving the EU without an agreement.

‘On behalf of the European agri-food chain, we will continue to promote a comprehensive and deep FTA between the EU and UK, following the UK’s departure from the European Union.’