As Brexit negotiations pick up pace, the health food industry is grappling with the challenges and opportunities arising from the UK's departure from the EU. UK politicians continue to quarrel about the meaning of Brexit, while EU negotiators look on in confusion and growing frustration. The clock is ticking, and uncertainty about the future is starting to paralyse many food businesses. Three broad areas of concern have been identified:
1. Closed markets?: Duty-free access on goods between the EU and UK would be considered by many to be low-hanging fruit in negotiations, a win-win for EU and UK firms in long-standing business relationships. However, complexities lie around the corner. Is duty-free trade a foregone conclusion, or could niche sectors find themselves excluded? Is market access dependent on a comprehensive overall agreement? And is a two-year transition period a realistic timeframe to secure this? Will rules of origin disrupt the traditional supply of raw materials?
2. Chaos at the borders? The UK has clear ambitions for “frictionless” trade with the EU post-Brexit. Nevertheless, serious doubts have been raised as to how this can be secured outside the Single Market and Customs Union? Do health food companies have a clear view of the implications of new borders for their supply chain? Which problems should we anticipate and what contingency plans can be made?
3. Regulatory freedom or confusion? EU regulatory demands are often seen as an unnecessary burden on the health food sector. Does Brexit offer new opportunities, at least on the UK market? Could the UK’s departure bring a change to the regulatory culture in Brussels? How much of a problem is regulatory ‘disalignment’ between the UK and EU and what sort of solutions can be found?
Join Chris Downes in the Vitafoods Europe 2018 Education Programme round table: this discussion will bring together participants to share views, reflect, and agonise about the meaning of Brexit for the health food sector. View the full programme and register to attend here.