Food and Drink Federation director general Ian Wright claimed today the Brexit vote was a disaster was food & drink, sending the pound falling and leading to major companies freezing investment.

Wright told the GCA conferencethe UK faced “chaos” because of the decision and said he was “heartbroken” at the outcome of the referendum.

The FDF stopped short of a fully fledged campaign against Brexit, despite a poll showing 70% of its members were opposed. Today, Wright warned of a legislative and financial nightmare and of a collapse in staff morale.

“I’m heartbroken at the result,” said Wright. “In my view the country has made a decision which is catastrophic. We now face a period of complete chaos. The country is leaderless on both sides. The Remain camp has no plan B and those who voted leave have no plan at all. We face months of profound uncertainty.”

Wright predicted that not only Scotland but Northern Ireland and even London would stage attempts to have future referendums against the vote and said the UK faced a vacuum with the collapse of EU laws.

“The entire of European regulation of food safety and labelling is about to disappear,” he said.

He also warned of “massive damage to the pound” saying the economy was about to go on a “Big Dipper” ride.

“Most big international companies will freeze their investment decisions,” he said. “I know of at least three companies that are now wanting to leave the UK and are in the process of informing their employees of that decision.”

Wright said the vote would have a massive impact on the huge foreign workforce in food and drink. “As an industry we employ 450,000 people and of those 130,000 are Eastern immigrants.

“It’s inevitable they are very frightened and uncertain of what they should do. We may see many of them deciding to go home. I was talking to a Romanian friend of mine who was in tears because she didn’t want to go home.”

Wright said the industry needed the FDF more than ever to try to steer the industry through the chaos.

One senior industry figure stressed it was important to see positive leadership from the FDF in the current climate. ”What the FDF needs now is positive leadership to take advantage of the huge opportunities on offer, not keep moaning about the past,” said Paul Wilkinson, a former chairman of Produce World and former CEO of RHM. 

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