The British food and farming sector is only the latest industry calling for clarification over freedom of movement and market access during the post-Brexit transition period after the British National Farming Union and 100 organisations across the UK published on May 28 a “Food Supply Manifesto” that called on Prime Minister Theresa May to ensure continued access to the EU’s labour market until at least December 2020.
The sector also wants what it calls “frictionless” trade with the EU, employing a term that is used by Conservative Leave campaigners to refer to a technology-intensive resolution of problems arising from border controls. The issue is especially pressing in Northern Ireland, where a big part of the economy focuses on farming and value chains integrated with the Republic.
The manifesto also raises concerns for the maintenance of high environmental standards that the industry depends on a cheap seasonal labour supply which the Minister for the Environment and leading Leave campaigner, Michael Gove, is willing to guarantee. His will has not, however, translated into the publication of a policy roadmap.
Gove has clarified that the UK’s farming and environmental standards will rise rather than race to the bottom after the country leaves the EU. However, concerns are raised as a trade deal with the US may come at the expense of deregulating market-access.
British farming associations are now asking for a white paper clarifying the intentions of the government after the end of the promised transition period.
“We are determined to get the best deal for the UK in our EU negotiations, not least for our world-leading food and farming industry which is a key part of our economic success,” a government spokesman told the BBC.