The Prime Minister Theresa May today ruled out remaining in the single market, and outlined 12 objectives for Britain’s negotiations to exit the European Union, including rights for EU nationals in Britain, free trade with European markets and new trade agreements with other countries.
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British Retail Consortium
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said May’s plan was “ambitious” and had the right priorities. “It is crucial that Britain gets a new deal that works for ordinary British consumers, which doesn’t hit them with the costs of new import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened.” Dickinson added it was crucial to avoid a “cliff edge” scenario for business – “a sudden and overnight change in trading conditions that won’t benefit anyone. The number one priority for an orderly exit should be to allow all goods traded between the EU and the UK to be in free circulation.”
Dickinson also welcomed May’s plan to transfer existing EU-based regulation into UK-based regulation. “Transferring responsibility for regulation from the EU to the UK will be a complicated task, taking up enormous resource,” she said. “The focus should be ensuring the smooth transition from EU to UK law. Substantive reform will have to wait until we have left the EU.”
As for EU workers currently residing in the UK, Dickinson said: “Workers from the European Union are part of the reason that British retailers are often able to deliver affordable and high-quality goods. The Government is right to signal reassurance to EU workers throughout our UK supply chains about their right to remain here.”
Food and Drink Federation
FDF director general Ian Wright said he welcomed “some much needed additional clarity” on May’s Brexit plans and was encouraged by May’s commitment to a “phased approach” to Brexit, “which offers businesses time to prepare and plan as opposed to a potentially fatal jump from the cliff edge”.
Wright also welcomed the Prime Minister’s plans to secure “the freest and simplest possible trade arrangements with the EU” but warned her wish to control immigration had to be balanced with businesses’ needs. “Our industry also needs access to workers with a range of skills - some not widely available in the UK - so we welcome the assurances for current EU workers and look forward to understanding better how her proposals will impact on future access to skilled and semi-skilled workers from the EU.”
Meanwhile, on the subject of Ireland Wright said “there is a complete co-dependency in food and drink production between the UK and the Republic of Ireland” and urged the government to “find a practical solution which avoids the introduction of any kind of ‘hard’ land border which would damage both economies”.
The prime minister’s speech had “changed the landscape”, said The CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn.
“Ruling out membership of the single market has reduced options for maintaining a barrier-free trading relationship between the UK and the EU. But businesses will welcome the greater clarity and the ambition to create a more prosperous, open and global Britain, with the freest possible trade between the UK and the EU,” Fairbairn added.
The pressure was now on to deliver these objectives and achieve a smooth and orderly exit. ”Businesses want to make a success of Brexit but will be concerned about falling back on damaging WTO rules,” she said. “They stand ready to support the negotiations to get the best possible deal for the UK by ensuring that the economic case is heard loud and clear.”
National Farmers Union
The NFU Council said it hoped May would be able to live up to her ambition of leaving the single market and the customs union in favour of a free trade agreement with the EU. But it warned these kinds of deals could take years to conclude and did not typically cover all products.
“If a quick and comprehensive deal cannot be achieved it would be absolutely vital that there are appropriate phased arrangements to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge to allow Britain’s farmers to adapt – especially given that farming is a long term industry where farmers are making decisions now without knowing what a future trading environment will look like,” the NFU Council said. “The British farming sector – along with many other industries – has consistently warned of the dangers of putting up barriers to accessing the European Market whether financial or logistical.”
Association of Convenience Stores
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “The impact of Brexit on convenience store retailers could be felt in three broad areas: the tariffs that businesses will have to pay to import products, restrictions on the labour market as part of immigration controls, and the decisions on which EU regulations to retain, repeal or extend. Local shops are exactly the sorts of businesses the government should be looking to support during this period of change, because we trade in every type of community where we provide a crucial service.”
Provision Trade Federation
PTF director general Andrew Kuyk said the key concerns for Brexit were the “continued ability to trade and produce, competitively and sustainably, in order to supply consumers, here and elsewhere, with safe, affordable and nutritious food”.
This meant continued access to the raw materials, labour, skills and investment, and the best possible access to the widest range of markets.
“Securing these outcomes is more important than the means of achieving them. But no one should underestimate the scale of the challenges involved. It will also be vital to maintain continuity so that businesses can plan and innovate with confidence for the changes ahead,” he warned.
British Beer & Pub Association
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “British brewing is respected and admired the world over, and as new agreements with Europe and the rest of the world are developed, we will be urging the government to ensure that we can export on a competitive footing and trade as freely as possible. Boosting current electronic trading arrangements, which at the moment facilitate the smooth trading of beer across borders, should be an important part of any new trade agreements.
“It is important that British firms, particularly in the beer and pub sector, can continue to seek international talent for soft skills shortages, including non-graduates, in the UK, and we await further details of how any new work permit system might work.”
Wildlife charity WWF’s director of advocacy Trevor Hutchings said: ”The environment will be a critical area for the government’s negotiations to establish our new global role, and is a key foundation of the shared European heritage to which she referred.
“Getting the best deal for the environment was not among the 12 key objectives for the negotiations set out by Theresa May, but the government has pledged to leave the UK environment in a better state than it found it. So, from the air we breathe to the soil we use and the water we drink, renegotiating our relationship with the rest of the EU presents a real opportunity, but only if the government makes enhancing environmental protections at home and abroad a priority.”
National Sheep Association
The industry body for the sheep sector said it was disappointed with May’s announcement the UK would be leaving the European single market.
”Up to 40% of UK sheep meat is exported every year, mostly into the EU, and the government is taking away our biggest export market with no clear plan for how to replace it,” said NSA communications manager Joanne Briggs. ”This is at the same time as future farm support payments are far from guaranteed. Establishing the UK as a free trade area also opens us up to imports from other countries, which is a huge concern.”
The NSA felt that the ”wider implications have not been considered, Briggs added, as the economic viability of sheep farmers also brought with it a wide range of “public good”, including animal welfare, environment management, wildlife biodiversity and rural employment.
“If you take away the end market, you risk the whole structure. We know we produce a world class product, but the decision made today does not come with the planning, transition periods or resources that are essential to establish new trade deals with the countries that want to buy our lamb.”
National Pig Association
The fundamental importance of EU labour to sectors like pig production must not be forgotten as the government forges ahead with its Brexit plans, the NPA warned.
“While the nature of future trade arrangements will have a huge impact on the viability of UK pig sector, currently the industry’s biggest concern is access to labour,” said NPA CEO Zoe Davies.
“Without EU labour there will be no British pig industry as we know it. We understand why immigration is going go to be a priority for Mrs May but, along with many other sectors, we fear this could result in serious unintended consequences if politics triumphs over economic reality,” Davies added.
“We are heavily reliant on EU labour on our farms, in our processing plants and across the wider industry, to produce British pigmeat, which is so highly valued in our home and export markets. We must do everything we can to retain that access.”
British Growers Association
“The devil is in the detail,” said BGA CEO Jack Ward. “It’s a bit of a move forward, but there are still many permutations, and the effects of Brexit on growers will hinge on what relations the government can build with what is a major trading partner,” he added.
“The sector is very reliant on movement of labour and there had been no detail on what kind of scheme would be offered to the industry.”
The PM had lifted some of the uncertainty created by the Brexit referendum, said Dairy UK CEO Judith Bryans, and brought some long-awaited clarity on the government’s approach to a number of key issues.
But while she welcomed the commitment to maintaining a robust trading relationship with the EU, “we have significant concerns about the UK’s prospects outside the single market and without certain elements of the EU Customs Union”, she added.
“With 80% of UK dairy exports currently going to EU countries, any disruption to current agreements would have an extensive and costly impact on our industry. We support the government’s commitment to put in place a strong, swift and effective transitional process and urge them to avoid any kind of interruption to current trade agreements with EU countries or the creation of counterproductive tariff or non-tariff barriers,” Bryans said.
Irish Farmers’ Association
Theresa May’s signal that the UK intended to exit the single market was a “major cause of concern to Irish farmers with the potential to seriously damage trade with the UK”, warned IFA president Joe Healy.
“With 40% of Irish food exports going to the UK, no other member state and no other sector are as exposed in the Brexit negotiations. Already, Irish farmers have taken most of the pain resulting from the weakness of sterling as a result of Brexit. Beef farmers took a hit of €150m last year from this alone and mushroom growers saw their margins wiped out.”
Wine and Spirit Trade Association
“We hope the government succeeds in negotiating the best possible deals for uninterrupted trade with the EU upon leaving the Single Market; and welcome the aim to achieve tariff free access,” said WSTA CEO Miles Beale.
”We also wish to see the government achieve the best possible platform for bilateral trade deals with priority countries, including government recognising the value of industry preparing the ground in advance - as the WSTA has already started to do,” he added. ”The size and the contribution made by the wine and spirit industry – which is worth some £50bn per annum to the UK economy - should not be ignored; and its influence with key trading partners should not be underestimated.”
The UK was a “key hub” for international wine trade, Beale said, and was the second largest wine importer by volume (behind Germany) and by value (behind USA), ”cementing its role as a key international player”. It was also by far the largest exporter of spirits in the world ”and we hope to see these mutually beneficial flows of trade continue”, he said.