The food & drink industry’s biggest trade organisations have called on the government to forge an “ambitious bilateral free-trade agreement with the EU” in the wake of Brexit.

The BRC, FDF and the NFU are today setting out a list of demands for the government about key objectives from the Brexit negotiations, ahead of Wednesday’s triggering of Article 50 by prime minister Theresa May.

Click here to view the full statement

The six-point statement sets out ways to establish the key areas of common ground between industry and the government on the way forward for the UK’s exit from the EU.

The statement calls for the government to “ensure a smooth and orderly Brexit” by agreeing transitional arrangements that allow frictionless trade in goods between the UK and EU.

The bodies said they wanted to “avoid costly and disruptive customs checks, processes and procedures”.

In the medium term, they call on the government to seek to avoid customs duties on trade by securing an “ambitious bilateral free-trade agreement with the EU” that delivers two-way tariff-free trade.

Establishing the UK as an independent member of WTO, securing the benefits for UK traders of existing EU preferential trade arrangements, engaging in formal trade negotiations with third countries and establishing co-operation with third countries are also on the list of key demands.

The groups also call for the government to consult with stakeholders and undertake “detailed economic impact assessments” when trade negotiations are opened, before any offers are exchanged with Europe.

A further 40 food & drink trade groups were involved in industry talks hosted by the FDF last week on the implications of May’s Great Repeal Bill, ahead of what promises to be a seismic week for the future of European trading relations.