Meat industry reacts to Queen’s Speech
This year’s Queen’s Speech came just days after Brexit negotiations formally began and included information on a number of bills that will affect the food and farming industry.
The Agriculture Bill aims to ensure an effective system is in place to support UK farmers, provide them with stability and protect the natural environment after Brexit.
In addition, the Trade Bill will allow Britain to draft and execute its own independent trade policy after the country leaves the EU.
Similarly, the Customs Bill should ensure that the UK has a standalone UK customs regime on exit, and flexibility to accommodate future trade agreements with the EU and others. It will also make sure that changes can be made to the UK’s VAT and excise regimes on exit from the EU, with the Government collecting payments of customs duties and having control over the import and export of goods.
The food and farming industry’s reaction to Her Majesty The Queen’s speech has been mixed, with many representatives asking for more clarity on the bills’ details.
In a statement, the National Farmers’ Union president, Meurig Raymond, pointed out that the Repeal Bill will be a “long and complex process to lift EU law in UK law” and added: “Carving out a new future for the farming sector is a huge opportunity for the wealth and wellbeing of the nation. We can further our substantial economic, social and environmental contribution and, with that, strengthen the nation’s ability to feed itself and the world.
“Working closely with the new Secretary of State for Defra and his ministerial team will be essential, and this is already off to a good start. But we’ll also need the support of the whole Parliament if British farming is to have a profitable future in a post-Brexit world.”
The Food and Drink Federation’s director general, Ian Wright, noted that “securing the right outcome for our food and drink industry is critical to both national security and the prosperity to our economy”.
He added: “We need certainty that the current legislative framework that underpins our sector’s success – and food safety – will be embedded in UK law by April 2019. At the same time, we need to start designing interim or transitional arrangements that will apply from April 2019 until any new framework applies.
“The bills announced today will require meaningful scrutiny in Parliament and continuing consultation with business. It is imperative that parliamentarians remain focused on securing the right outcomes and do not get side-tracked.”
Wright’s remarks were matched by the British Meat Processors Association’s chief executive, Nick Allen, who told Meat Management: “The bills announced in the Queen’s speech will require meaningful scrutiny in Parliament and continuing consultation with business and the industry. It is imperative that parliamentarians remain focused on securing the right outcomes and businesses have a realistic transition period.
“We are looking for five key outcomes – access to our valued EU workforce, a stable regulatory regime, zero-tariff and frictionless trade across borders and clarity on the government’s plans for investment in agriculture and the countryside. Sustainable and globally competitive food production, which looks at the supply chain as a whole, should be the key objective.”
Adding to the reaction, the British Poultry Council’s chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said: “The Queen’s Speech, while light on detail, showed that we have a mountain to climb if we are to achieve a successful Brexit negotiation. There’s no better feeling than being able to provide for ourselves; our family, our community, our society.
“When it comes to putting food on the tables of the nation, Brexit must be about standing on our own two feet, working hard, and producing great British food. We need our Government to actively back UK poultry meat producers in the Bills that are to be brought forward.”
Speaking to Meat Management, the International Meat Trade Association’s policy director, Katie Doherty, commented: “IMTA is heartened that in the opening of the Queen’s speech there was a commitment that ministers will not only be working with parliament, the devolved administrations but also business to build ‘the widest possible consensus on the country’s future outside the European Union’.
“We welcome that and are keen to work with ministers and government on the proposed legislation cited in the speech on agriculture, trade and customs. The timeframe for the Brexit negotiations are short, needing a conclusion of the withdrawal negotiations by October 2018 to allow time for ratification through the Member States we need government to harness the expertise of the industry to ensure the best outcome for our sector.”
On the other hand, the head of policy at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers, Norman Bagley, pointed out: “All we know so far is that an agriculture bill will be forthcoming without any details in what might be included.
The test will be whether DEFRA sees a future for commercial livestock production or a continuation of the current direction of travel towards non-economic niche farming and its fellow travellers.”
In addition, the Provision Trade Federation’s director general Andrew Kuyk, emphasised that the Queen’s Speech “underlines the scale of the Brexit challenge and that that the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries policies go much wider than trade”.
He noted that it also raises “important strategic issues for the UK”, regarding future national policy in these sectors and added: “Stakeholders, and specifically food businesses, need to be fully consulted both on the legislative issue and on future policy options.”