The food and drink industry is heading for Brexit. According to our exclusive industry poll, 39% back leaving the EU and 37% will vote to stay. Only it’s more complicated than that.
That 39% majority is voting from a personal perspective. But when asked about ‘professional’ concerns that would result from Brexit, the majority (37% vs 30%) think leaving the EU would be a bad thing, revealing major concerns about the impact on business issues including imports and exports, food and drink prices and recruitment. Suppliers are especially worried.
That personal feelings are outweighing professional ones suggests hearts are ruling heads - and emotion is never useful when it comes to making big business decisions. Will emotions still be running high on the big day? Like so many questions posed by the panoramic Brexit debate, it’s unclear. Our poll reveals high levels of uncertainty, with 21% of the industry still floating voters and a further 25% ticking the ‘don’t know’ box when offered it as an option.
With 48 days to go, this should be a real cause for concern. As one respondent says, it’s “crazy” to allow such an important decision to be left to an ill-informed public.
And I still don’t understand why the supermarkets are sitting on the fence. I know they like to say they are guided always by what their customers tell them, but as Henry Ford once observed, customers don’t always know what they want till they see the alternative.
On the other hand, both camps will see this level of confusion as an opportunity to win both hearts and heads, and to worry about which prevails at the polls later.
In the Bremain corner, prime minister David Cameron appeals directly to the food and drink industry to stay, in an exclusive interview with The Grocer.
Next week, farming minister George Eustice will take the same platform to appeal for Brexit. As our survey shows, both will find support within the food and drink industry. But which camp will be celebrating come 24 June remains too close to call.