Farm leaders have issued a warning about the importance of maintaining free access to the EU market as food and drink exports from the UK hit record new levels.
More than £22 billion worth of food and drink was exported to the rest of the world in 2017 – up £2 billion since the UK voted to leave the EU – but some commentators have put the success of exporting businesses down to the weakness of Sterling.
British food and drink is now being sold in 217 markets, with sales of milk and cream up 61 per cent and pork 14 per cent.
The United States, China and Hong Kong are among the top destinations for British food outside the EU, but exports to other member states still accounted for more than 60 per cent of the UK’s trade.
This continued reliance on the EU market led 37 food and farming organisations, including the TFA, the Food and Drink Federation and the NFU, to release a joint statement calling for a continuation of ‘free and frictionless’ trade with the bloc over the weekend.
NFU Brexit director Nick von Westenholz said: “This statement is a strong signal urging Government to recognise the crucial role the food supply will continue to play in post-Brexit Britain.
“In providing people with a safe, secure and affordable supply of food to some of the highest welfare and environmental standards in the world; in managing over 70 per cent of the UK landmass that is farmed; in providing 3.9 million jobs in industries both pre- and post-farmgate; and in contributing to two of the UK economy’s big success stories: UK manufacturing and retail.
“The Government must ensure it supports these vital advantages delivered by UK food and drink businesses as it negotiates our withdrawal from, and future relationship with, the EU.”
In its statement, the coalition also called on Ministers to secure the benefits of existing EU trade agreements with other countries; ensure access to an adequate supply of permanent and seasonal labour; promote food production through agricultural policy and develop an efficient regulatory system centred on science.
These core principles will be built on by the alliance, which hopes to put together a shared manifesto ahead of the next EU Council meeting in March.