steve parfett quote web

In a summer when the headlines were supposed to be about sport, 24 June was as big a shock to wholesalers as to the nation in general - and the ramifications continue. I have no more knowledge of whether we will eventually be better out than in than anyone else, but I do know the uncertainty is going to affect behaviour of both consumers and small businesses. However the situation develops, I have to say it will be no thanks to the craven, unprincipled and cowardly behaviour of Johnson, Leadsom and Farage.

In the meantime, we have a clear decision to deal with and have to act swiftly and decisively to make the best of it, and the foreshortened appointment process to make Theresa May prime minister must be a good start.

For our sector, there are some intriguing questions. On alcohol we will be freed of EU rules on excise duty and could properly revise and align duty rates as I suggested in this column in 2012 and 2015, a view echoed in Paul Johnson’s piece for the Institute of Fiscal Studies in April. On cigarettes, will the tobacco companies see a new opportunity to revisit compliance with EUTPD and its restrictions, among other things, on selling 10-packs and menthol products, which will disproportionately impact on convenience retail?

Do the pressures on the economy, at least in the short term, give government an opportunity to at least slow down the increases in the national living wage as argued for by both ACS and FWD?

After the commitment to a national trade policy by the PM, I really hope that for moral, strategic and sustainability reasons we look at strengthening UK food production and ensuring it thrives. There is also a real need to ensure our world leadership in animal welfare standards both continues and is taken into account before we import meat, poultry, dairy and eggs.

Like Chris Elliott (‘A body blow for food controls’, 16 July, p21), I do worry about the effect on policing food standards, an area where EU co-operation has been a real benefit. Are the complexities of the discussions on clear food nutritional labelling made easier or harder by our ability to regulate nationally? I’m not sure.

Finally, one plaudit and one brickbat for our new PM. I was delighted to see her commitment to dealing with tax abuse in all its forms, but particularly by large companies, and hope that as a country we really do find ways to deal with this important issue.

On the other hand, I was particularly unhappy at the scrapping of the department for climate change, given the huge and potentially existential threats posed to us all. This is surely the worst possible short termism.

Steve Parfett is chairman of AG Parfett & Sons