55.No one we took evidence from argued that the UK could avoid relying at least partially on imports as it does not have the capacity to produce domestically some of the products UK customers have grown used to all year round. 94 per cent of UK exports and 97 per cent of UK imports of food and non-alcoholic drink are to and from the EU or with countries that the EU has negotiated or is in the process of negotiating a trade agreement with.
56.This has led many stakeholders to stress that it would be in both the EU’s and the UK’s interest to negotiate a trade deal as soon as possible and for the UK to replicate as many existing EU trade deals as possible, as they represent 10 per cent of all UK food and drink exports. The Food and Drink Federation identified Korea, Canada, South Africa, Mexico and Norway as key priorities for replicating existing EU trade deals as they are the top 5 five non-EU export destinations for UK exports through an EU trade deal.
57.Many witnesses suggested that negotiating these new agreements would be an opportunity to improve existing export processes and tariffs but stressed that any new agreement should achieve mutual recognition at the very least. Witnesses also warned against lowering existing product standards as a result of negotiating new deals with non-EU countries.
58.Although all witnesses welcomed the Government’s intention to negotiate new free trade agreements, some feared that it is already running out of time to do so before March 2019. UK businesses argued for certainty on future trade terms now in order to make long-term investment decisions.
59.Exiting the EU could be a unique opportunity to diversify the UK’s balance of trade towards new partnerships with non-EU countries and decrease the cost of some imports by agreeing mutually-binding reduction or removal of tariffs on certain goods. The Government pointed out that it is predicted that 90 per cent of global economic growth in the next two decades is going to be created outside of the EU. The Food and Drink Federation told us the UK was “massively” under-exporting, representing an opportunity to do much better in terms of exports to both non-EU and EU countries. The Government’s Food and Drink Action Plan was designed to increase UK exports and has the potential to deliver significant outcomes. Nevertheless, some witnesses suggested that the Government pursue these new opportunities whilst maintaining the same level of trade with the EU, rather than substituting it.
60.We welcome the Government’s Food & Drink Action Plan and any other initiatives to boost UK food and drink exports. We believe this cannot be done without seeking a free-trade agreement with the EU as a priority given the sector’s current reliance on the EU as an export destination. The Government should also prioritise the roll-over of existing EU trade agreements to the UK and then focus on establishing new free trade agreements with third countries.
115 Food and Drink Federation, , July 2016, p4
116 Food and Drink Federation, , p4; Scottish Whisky Association ; Ferrero UK , para 28; Wine and Spirit Trade Association ; Food and Drink Federation , para 10; ; PAGB ; Confederation of Paper Industries , para 13;
117 Food and Drink Federation, , p4
118 Council for Responsible Nutrition UK , para 26–30; Tate & Lyle Sugars , para 26–28
119 Wine and Spirit Trade Association
120 GMB para 11; Food and Drink Federation , para 37; Unite the Union
121 Council for Responsible Nutrition UK , para 25
122 Food and Drink Federation , para 34–35; USDAW ; ALMR
123 Department for International Trade, , 5 January 2018
124 [Ian Wright]
125 Defra & DIT, , 18 October 2016
126 Wine and Spirit Trade Association
Published: 22 April 2018