A GROUP called FoodDrinkEurope, representing Europe’s largest manufacturing industry, has called on Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to introduce unilateral contingency measures specific to the agri-food sector in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
In a one-page letter (dated January 31st) – with a further page detailing the type of measures the organisation would like to see adopted – FoodDrinkEurope president, Hubert Weber, underlines that ‘a no deal Brexit would be hugely damaging for large, medium and small companies alike, as well as for farmers, due to high tariff duties and burdensome procedures at the borders.’ Ultimately, consumers in both the UK and the EU-27 would bear the brunt, the executive vice-president and president of MondelÄz Europe tells the Commission boss.
With trade in food and drink products between the EU-27 and the UK amounting to €46billion, FoodDrinkEurope, of which FoodDrinkIreland is a member, ‘has strongly encouraged companies to prepare for a no deal scenario … faced with the current lack of certainty,’ Weber adds.
Director general of FoodDrinkEurope, Mella Frewen, said contingency plans were ‘crucial for industry and for consumers’ in such a ‘complex, highly-integrated and “just in time” food supply chain.’ The measures are also necessary from a ‘consumer safety point of view,’ given the short shelf life and perishability of food products.
Referring to the worst-case scenario of a ‘no deal’ Brexit and the UK becoming a thirrd country on March 30th, the Dublin woman described the crippling impact high WTO tariffs would have on the 289,000 European food companies – 99% of which are SMEs. Europe’s food and drink SMEs represent half of the sector’s turnover (49.5%) and almost 63% of its employment.
Neither the food producer nor the consumer has the capacity to absorb the hike in costs, Frewen added.