Post-Brexit food tariffs could have a catastrophic domino effect on the food and drink industry, experts have warned.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, Michael Gove - Secretary of State for environment, food and rural affairs - said tariffs must be imposed on all food coming into the UK. However, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) are vehemently opposed to the plan as they say it would be detrimental to every single food manufacturing business across the nation.
A spokesperson for the federation said: “The UK Government set out four potential options for UK tariffs in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit. FDF has concerns around all the options available, with each option presenting unique benefits and risks depending on the supply chain model.”
They went on to warn that any changes to the status would be felt by everybody engaged in the British food chain, from the farmers and manufacturers to the traders and consumers. As a result, the federation is urging the government to find a suitable deal that will avoid such repercussions.
The spokesperson said: “The best outcome for our industry would be for Government to ensure there is a deal that avoids a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and delivers continued tariff-free and frictionless trade between the UK.”
It comes after a report by activist group the Consumer Choice Centre argued food tariffs must be avoided at all costs. The in-depth study showed that tariffs would effectively undermine consumer interests and send a bad message to the rest of the world.
Maria Chaplia, America associate at the CCC, said: “Free trade is vital for consumer choice as it allows consumers to enjoy a greater variety of products at a lower cost. Interventions in the form of tariffs, non-tariff barriers or quotas hit consumers the hardest and therefore should be avoided or decreased at all costs.”
She added: “Much or the UK’s post-Brexit success will mainly depend on the UK’s ability to develop a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU, abolish import tariffs on agriculture, and build FTAs with other countries by embracing openness, deregulation and trade liberalisation and, conversely, neutralise and potentially even exceed the Brexit costs.”
“If Brexit comes with tariffs on food, a small group of people, British farmers, will win while every British consumer will lose.”
The impact of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit has long been a source of contention across the UK’s food and drink industry. At the start of the year, the British Poultry Council warned the nation’s chicken industry risked losing £200 million in just six months in the event of ‘no deal’.