Uncertainty looms following PM resignation and EU elections – industry reaction
As widely predicted, Secretary of State at Defra, Michael Gove, has thrown his hat into the ring seeking to take over as Prime Minister from Theresa May, who resigned on Friday. Gove was the eighth Tory MP to signal his intentions by joining a growing list of candidates, including the favourite Boris Johnson and the previous Brexit Minister Dominic Raab.
The PM’s resignation came on the Friday prior to the EU election results which were announced on Sunday evening. In the UK, the new Brexit Party took well over 30% of the vote followed by the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, with over 20%. Both Labour and Conservatives performed very poorly, although only around a third of UK voters bothered to participate.
Mr Farage’s Brexit Party won 29 seats, the Lib Dems 16, Labour 10, the Greens seven, the Tories four, the SNP three, and Plaid Cymru and the DUP only one each.
Responding to a weekend full of events that are likely to have a major impact on future meat trade business, the chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) Nick Allen said: “Events over the last few days have probably increased the risk of the UK leaving the EU without a deal at the end of October. The potential disaster that a no deal will be for the meat industry has been well documented and has been recognised by many senior politicians.
“The 31st October leave date could not come at a worse time for the food sector, and especially the meat sector, being so close to Christmas. We must hope that whoever is selected as the new Prime Minister of this country has a clear and coherent plan for avoiding a no deal Brexit. We also hope that the time between now and the end of October will not be wasted and frittered away.
“The UK was not ready for leaving the EU without a deal at the end of March and it is not ready now. Europe is clearly progressing its plans and by the end of October, if the worst happens, they will be as prepared as they can be to mitigate the potential damage. The UK must do that as well. This will mean further costs incurred throughout the supply chain that will have to be borne by the businesses in this country.
“Trade is being lost and investment is being put on hold putting jobs and the economy at risk. It is vital that our politicians find the compromises and the consensus that is needed to bring to an end this sorry state of affairs.”
Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) president Andy McGowan commented: “Our sincere hope is that the next Prime Minister, whoever it might be, will be able to quickly resolve the Brexit impasse so that our industry can start planning for the future with a renewed degree of clarity.
“The procrastination we have witnessed so far is costing us all money and the longer it goes on the more it will cost us. It’s affecting our customers, our staff and our businesses, and as the European Parliament election outcome clearly demonstrates, businesses and the general public urgently need it to be drawn to a swift conclusion.”
Katie Doherty the CEO of the International Meat Trade Association (IMTA) added: “Theresa May was certainly resilient but in the end was unable to get her deal through parliament. With more than ten runners and riders for the Conservative leadership it is anybody’s guess where things go next, with some running on a no deal platform and others against.
“With the Brexit Party winning so many UK seats in the European elections, how that will be received in the rest of Europe will be something to watch.”
Ian Stevenson the chief executive of The Livestock & Meat Commission for Northern Ireland was equally concerned: “The announcement by Theresa May that she will be stepping down as Prime Minister has certainly created plenty of interest amongst those who would seek to succeed her in the role. Delivering an orderly Brexit remains a huge challenge for whoever becomes the next UK Prime Minister, but one thing remains abundantly clear to our beef and lamb industry in Northern Ireland – a no-deal Brexit would be an outcome that would deliver untold and unrecoverable damage to our industry.
“We have a hugely important agri-food sector in Northern Ireland that is founded on family farms and businesses, and the social and economic future of these businesses and the rural communities in which they operate depends on sensible and pragmatic leadership by the next resident of 10 Downing Street.”
Whilst Andrew Kuyk CBE, the director general of the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) summed up the opinion of many commenting: “Far from resolving the Brexit impasse, Theresa May’s departure looks set to unleash a whole new wave of uncertainty and put the risk of no deal – by accident or design – firmly back on the table.
“The process of choosing her successor is also going to take up time we don’t really have, while making contingency planning even more difficult. Orders are already being lost as longstanding trading partners make alternative arrangements. And no one is going to enter into new business without knowing what terms they are going to face.”