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What other sectors want from Brexit

With all British industries facing the same uncertainty from Brexit, Alex Black looks at what the construction, freight, fisheries and financial industries are calling for as the UK leaves the EU

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Farming’s concerns mirrored across UK industry

British farming’s concerns about a post-Brexit deal have been echoed across all sectors of the UK economy, with migrant labour, border controls and a transitional deal high on the agenda.


And UK farming does not operate in isolation, with other businesses across the supply chain potentially facing major disruption from Brexit.


NFU chief EU exit and international trade adviser Gail Soutar said international trade and access to a competent workforce were at the forefront of Brexit issues for many sectors.


She said: “The NFU has instigated a number of industry-wide Brexit initiatives, including a joint letter to Government on the food supply chain’s workforce needs and a Brexit supply chain conference which brought together key figures in the industry.”


Shared concerns


With many of these aims of all sectors shared in the agriculture industry, the NFU said it had been working as a key member of the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI’s) Trade Association Council, which was working to bring the interests of different sectors together with its Brexit strategy group.


Ms Soutar added the group had identified a number of priorities in line with the NFU’s including a free and frictionless deal, access to labour and proportionate and effective regulation.


She said: “The CBI group is an effective complement to the work NFU does, ensuring our priorities are presented across a range of government departments and built on a solid coalition of industry representatives.”


With the UK currently facing a housing crisis, a bad deal for the construction industry from Brexit could have an impact right across the country, including for landowners looking at house building as a way to diversify.

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Construction SMEs on migrant workers

85 per cent

said EU workers were important in allowing their business to maintain and expand its workforce


76 per cent

said EU workers returning to country of origin now or post-Brexit would have a negative impact


94 per cent

describe the quality of EU workers they employ as ‘good’ or ‘very good’


Source: Federation of Master Builders


Access to migrant workers has been the main concern for the construction industry. A labour force survey by the Office for National Statistics found 12.6 per cent of construction workers were born outside of the UK, and this figure increased to nearly 50 per cent in London and the South East.


The industry has committed to recruiting and training additional UK workers to reduce its reliance on migrants, but has highlighted this cannot happen overnight.


In its Construction Industry Manifesto, it called for future migration visa systems to be based on key occupations in short supply ‘rather than on arbitrary thresholds based on skill levels or income’.


These systems could then be used to tackle skills shortages in trades such as building, as well as in agricultural industries such as dairy.


Like the farming sector, the construction industry has been criticised in the past for being ‘too disparate’, but Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said it had come together with a clear message.


He said: “We know we need to step up as an industry and train more home-grown talent, but we also have to be realistic about the future.


“There will continue to be some ongoing need for migrant workers and our post-Brexit migration rules will need to be fit for purpose.”


He also called for a transitional deal to be agreed to prevent a ‘cliff edge’ for incoming workers.



Transitional arrangements were also vital for the freight sector, which called on Government to ensure the industry only had to adapt to new rules and requirements once, with the transitional period preserving the status quo.


Freight Transport Association deputy chief executive James Hookham said with such a short time before Brexit, both the EU and UK needed to ‘keep trading considerations ahead of political ambitions’.


He said: “The time for talking is rapidly becoming the time for action. Without it, industry will struggle to keep supply chains efficient.”


UK automotive industry

6,600 cars


manufactured per day


79 per cent

are exported



engines are manufactured

56 per cent

are exported

Source: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders


The automotive sector has also frequently been in the news, with Nissan hitting the headlines after being reassured by the Government it would not lose out from Brexit.


The sector’s key concern was remaining competitive on a global market with most of British built cars being exported and component parts being imported from the continent.


And with consumer uncertainty around Brexit and confusion over the future for diesel cars, sales had already taken a hit.


Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders president Tony Walker said the sector’s competitiveness had been very hard won, but could easily be lost.


Mr Walker said: “A hard Brexit would undermine all we have collectively achieved. It is a real threat; a hurdle we cannot ignore.


“After all the difficulties we have overcome, all the changes we have made and the innovations we have brought, we do not need trade barriers to be our next challenge.”




Brexit was being seen as an opportunity for the fisheries sector to develop a more responsive, co-operative policy for the future.


Dale Rodmell, assistant chief executive at the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, criticised the top-down approach taken by the EU in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).


He called for Parliament to set out broad principles rather than concerning itself in technical detail where it did not have the expertise.


Mr Rodmell said: “Fisheries management is prone to unintended consequences. We have certainly learned this over recent decades.


“We should therefore in future ensure we are able to change course quickly to adapt to dynamic circumstances or after it is recognised we have taken a wrong turning. We should certainly not follow the CFP into an unwieldy decision-making system.”


Mr Rodmell called for an approach using collective responsibility and accountability, including producer organisations (POs) at port level in quota management and marketing and providing incentives to support the industry’s objectives.


UK finance industry

  • Over 1 million jobs in the financial and insurance sector
  • Contributed £24.4 billion to UK tax receipts in 2015/16
  • Contributed £124.2bn in gross added value to the UK economy in 2016
  • Trade surplus of £43.8bn in financial and insurance activities in 2016

Source: UK Finance


The financial sector’s hopes for a ‘more ambitious’ trade deal than the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement deal between the EU and Canada have been dashed by the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, after he said in leaving the single market the UK would lose its financial services passport.


It followed a letter from lobby group UK Finance, calling for the ‘bold new relationship’ with the EU to focus on the financial services sector in an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May.


It said a high degree of mutual cross-border market access was fundamental to the success of the sector and wanted pragmatic decisions on regulatory alignment to ‘maximise benefits’ for both the EU and the UK.


A transitional deal was also high on the financial services agenda, reinforced by regulators and domestic governments to provide certainty and prevent ‘wasteful preparation’ against a cliff-edge scenario.

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