Opinion

Food and drink sector squares up to Brexit challenges

‘The biggest question facing UK food and drink is what direction of travel the government will disclose for Brexit’ : Rick Pendrous

As 2017 opens, without doubt, we are entering unknown territory. The biggest question facing UK food and drink is what direction of travel the government will disclose for Brexit in advance of Article 50 being triggered, probably in March.

Continued access to the Single Market as well as to EU workers remain the biggest concerns of the industry. But it is inevitable that the precise details – including any changes to the huge raft of EU laws affecting the sector – will take many years to properly emerge.

The Great Reform Bill, which will annul the 1972 European Communities Act and gives the UK Parliament the power to absorb parts of EU legislation into UK law and scrap elements it does not want to keep, will only be the start of the process.

Questions remain unanswered

Well before then, many questions remain to be answered about future trade with the EU and the rest of the world; about food security; and about support for both farmers and food and drink exporters once we are on our own.

Paul Wilkinson, chair of the National Skills Academy for Food & Drink and someone with a passionate understanding of food manufacture, having long been involved with many UK food and drink companies, is an ardent Brexiteer.

Huge opportunities

He sees huge opportunities – not least in innovation and the adoption of science – for the sector once what he sees as the regulatory shackles of Brussels have been thrown off.

Wilkinson will be chairing Food Manufacture’s morning Business Leaders’ Forum, which will take place in London on Tuesday January 24, at which many of these issues will be up for discussion.

If you are a senior executive in UK food and drink manufacture and would like to join the debate, please get in touch with me.

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