Food and drink industry leaders have expressed exasperation at stalling Brexit talks, expressing fears the economy could suffer due to failed “ideology and dogma”.
A number of organisations have urged politicians to realise the need for compromise on key areas including rights for EU citizens in the workforce, after the EU’s chief negotiator Michael Barnier warned talks had reached “deadlock” yesterday.
Brexit secretary David Davis has said he still hoped for the go-ahead for trade talks when EU leaders meet next week.
But FDF director general Ian Wright voiced “grave concern” over the delays to negotiations.
“It’s been almost four months since the prime minister set out her offer for EU citizens to stay in the UK,” he said.
“The negotiators must put the politics to one side and focus on the people - without whom we would be unable to feed the nation. The protracted uncertainty has already led to food and drink’s valued EU workers leaving the UK, with many more considering their futures here.
“FDF was the first trade association to call for the right for all EU workers to remain. It is of grave concern to industry that after many rounds of talks, we are yet to see concrete progress.”
Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA, was another food boss to express dismay at the pace of talks.
“Today’s news from Brussels is deeply frustrating,” he said. “It simply isn’t good enough that Brexit talks are still in deadlock. Politicians from both sides of the Channel simply have to knuckle down and make progress. Brexit cannot falter on ideology and dogma and must instead focus on finding solutions that are mutually beneficial.
“That inevitably means compromise - on both sides. A failed negotiation would be a disaster for UK and EU business and citizens alike.”
Yesterday culture secretary Karen Bradley sought to allay the hospitality industry’s fears over Brexit, when she spoke at the British Hospitality Association’s annual Hospitality and Tourism Day reception in parliament.
Mrs Bradley said the government was listening to industry concerns over the shortage of EU workers.
She said: “I’ve heard you, I know that you are concerned about it, we are very aware of this - acutely aware. The prime minister, you will have heard in her Florence speech, talked about EU labour and I recognise you want certainty; I want certainty, as soon as possible on this important issue.
She added: “EU nationals have contributed an incredible amount to the UK economy and to your sector in particular, and we want to make sure that you have the labour you need, and that you have the people you need to enable you to thrive and continue.”