Food and farm leaders call for measures as Europe readies for no deal Brexit

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Tomas Ragina
© GettyImages/Tomas Ragina

Related tags Brexit UK-EU trade rules

As Brexit negotiations teeter on the brink of collapse, European farmers, the EU agriculture trade and food sectors have outlined five actions for the European Commission and the UK

“At this eleventh hour we call on negotiators to strike a comprehensive tariff and quota-free trade agreement with close harmonisation of rules, including on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade.

“We must strive for a level playing field, including on workers’ rights,”​ reads a statement from four EU food and ag trade groups, Copa and Cogeca, FoodDrinkEurope, EFFAT and CELCAA.

Whether a deal is struck or not, the organizations made five demands:

On conclusion of the negotiations, they want immediate clarity on future UK-EU trade rules to avoid more economic turmoil and job uncertainty for a sector already badly bruised by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The UK will leave the Single Market and the Customs Union which will mean customs procedures, regulatory burdens and rising transport costs, and a no-deal scenario, with the imposition of tariffs and heavy customs requirements, will create a dire situation, they noted.

Given agri-food businesses will likely feel a greater impact from Brexit than other sectors, specific measures will be needed for a smooth transition, as well as broad support from the EU Brexit Adjustment Reserve.”

The trade groups call for public authorities to organise quick and effective information campaigns to help businesses understand the new rules and plan their operations.

Workers’ rights must be protected, and businesses given the assistance they need to maintain job security for the millions of employees working in the European agri-food chain, they argued.

Finally, they said constant dialogue with the European Commission and UK authorities, as well as with social partners and stakeholders, will be essential to respond to potential disruptions and emergencies that will emerge after December 31, 2020. 

“Whatever the outcome of the negotiations, we encourage the EU and UK to put any acrimony behind them in favour of a strong and productive relationship for the benefit of all,” ​advised the organizations.

Contingency plans 

According to a piece​ in the Irish Times today, the European Commission has reportedly prepared legal texts for a no-deal scenario and may publish them today.

“The contingency measures are described as the bare minimum required to avoid the worst chaos that would otherwise ensue on January 1st when existing arrangements would dissolve overnight. They will include temporary rules to allow aeroplanes to continue to fly between the UK and the EU, and for haulage trucks to keep driving through the Channel Tunnel, The Irish Times understands.”

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