The UK agricultural industry must stand together to avoid a ‘dog’s Brexit’ and catch the best trade deal in light of ongoing negotiations.
In his address at NFU conference, director general of the Food and Drink Federation Ian Wright urged farmers to cast aside their differences and demand their ‘rightful place’ in a ‘proper, open transparent system’.
He said: “It seems to me that something which we all need to recognise and is something that is instated very often, is that food is at the heart of national security.
“If you cannot feed the country, you have not got a country.”
The conference seminar to consult on the government’s position on international trade, its impact on the consumer and whether British farmers will be treated fairly in any future trade deals, heard Mr Wright explain how the UK’s export performance had been ‘absolutely spectacular’ but its export potential remained ‘untapped’ (read more on page 20).
He said a transitional deal should be at the forefront of any future trade agreement.
“I also take the view that a transition deal is absolutely critical and in some ways is more important - and certainly more urgent – that the Government gets that transition deal right before we start worrying about a free trade agreement,” Mr Wright added.
“We need to define ‘frictionless’ pretty quickly. Arrangements must be in place to guarantee a lack of friction can be there even more speedily.”
Allie Renison, Institute of Directors head of Europe and trade policy, also highlighted ‘nowhere does trade policy matter more than in agriculture’.
She said: “Brexit could provide huge liberalising opportunities for the food and drink sector, but it also poses a number of potential challenges in the short-term which must be dealt with first.
“I do think that after Brexit we need to think about how we do domestic support but also what type of trade policy we want to have.”