MPs vote leaves confusion and chaos
MPs inflicted two defeats on Theresa May at Westminster last night, rejecting the idea of Britain leaving the EU without a deal and clearing the way for Brexit to be delayed. The Prime Minister said there was a clear majority against a no-deal Brexit, but that the legal default was still that the UK would leave without a deal on 29th March, if no deal is reached.
Parliament will now get a vote on delaying Brexit and that vote will take place this evening 14th March. If it is passed and if the EU agrees to it, the UK will not leave the EU as planned on 29th March.
Food Industry Reaction:
Commenting on the votes in the House of Commons, Ian Wright, the Chief Executive of the Food & Drink Federation (FDF) said: “Parliament’s decisive rejection of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit on 29th March 2019 is an encouraging first step.
However, ‘no-deal’ remains the default legal outcome. Food and drink manufacturers cannot stop planning for that outcome until the Withdrawal Act is amended and the EU has consented to a UK request for a delay. These steps must now happen very quickly.”
Before MPs voted they backed an amendment tabled by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, rejecting a no-deal Brexit under any circumstances – by just four votes. This development led to the government ordering Conservative MPs to vote against its own motion. However the government motion, as amended, was actually passed by 321 votes to 278, reinforcing the message that a majority of MPs do not want to leave without a deal.
Additional industry comment came from Andrew Kuyk of the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) who said: “We are fast running out of strong enough words to describe the chaos and confusion which food businesses – and their suppliers and customers (not to mention their staff, shareholders and bank managers) – are continuing to face as our political institutions are tested to destruction by Brexit.
“While it is tempting to think after last night that no deal may now be off the table, it unfortunately remains the case this morning that the only certainty is still uncertainty, with all that brings”.
Meat Industry Reaction:
Nick Allen of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) added: “It is becoming clear that MP’s have no regard for businesses and industry in this country. So far this week we have seen some very confusing tariff arrangements hurried out far too late for businesses to prepare and now more uncertainty.
“It is clear that as a country we are not prepared for leaving the EU yet, but at the same time the uncertainty and delay is starting to cripple businesses. Parliament has a responsibility to resolve this uncertainty as soon as possible otherwise serious damage is going to be done to the economy. Whilst they fiddle, Rome is starting to burn. On behalf of my members I can only express total exasperation at this mess.”
Norman Bagley of the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) was succinct commenting: “You might call the situation somewhat fluid. With more votes today it’s difficult to know where we are off to. There is too much speculation at present. I still see the deal, or a version of it, as most likely.”
Martin Morgan of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) expressed his worries: “The goings on at Westminster continue to both disappoint and greatly worry our members. The consequences of leaving the EU without a trade deal are stark as businesses in all sectors will suffer financially. The time for public school style games of one-upmanship between our MPs is over, business need certainty now more than ever.”
Livestock & Meat Commission Northern Ireland (LMC) Chief Executive Ian Stevenson commented: “Yet another unbelievable day in the politics of Brexit. We had the government first thing in the morning issuing its import tariff plans for access to the UK market which does nothing to protect the Northern Ireland Beef and Sheep meat industry from the devastating impacts of a no-deal Brexit.
“The Parliamentary vote in Westminster late in the evening to rule out a no-deal Brexit is a helpful step in the right direction towards an orderly withdrawal, but the legislation still remains in place that the UK leaves the EU on 29th March 2019 and steps must now be taken to make sure this cliff edge default is avoided if no withdrawal agreement is in place by then.
“The UK agri-food industry has been very consistent throughout the Brexit negotiations in saying that no-deal could ever be considered a viable or acceptable option and workable solutions must now be found by our politicians to ensure an orderly exit from the EU and deliver some much needed certainty and clarity to businesses, suppliers and customers”.