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Food and drink industry supported by PM in Brexit speech

By Sara Hussein , 18-Jan-2017
Last updated on 18-Jan-2017 at 20:09 GMT2017-01-18T20:09:14Z

The Prime Minister has addressed the 'crucial' food and drink industry
The Prime Minister has addressed the 'crucial' food and drink industry

Industry bodies have welcomed Teresa May’s “recognition” of the value of the food and drink sector in her Brexit speech.  

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have both praised the Prime Minister’s support yesterday (Tuesday 17 January), who claimed Britain was a “critical” and “profitable” export market that employs “millions” of EU workers.

The Prime Minister also claimed the UK would still be able to trade with Europe, a move that would allow the UK to set trade deals across the world and set competitive tax rates.

‘Support’ for competitive tax rates

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “It is heartening to hear the Prime Minister reiterate her support for competitive tax rates for businesses in the UK, and to hear her acknowledge the value of the UK’s food and drink sector to the British economy.

“As new agreements with Europe and the rest of the world are developed, we will be urging the Government to ensure that we can export on a competitive footing and trade as freely as possible.”

Simmonds was also keen to see Britain will ensure EU employees already working in the hospitality industry are given the right to remain and work in the UK.

She added: “It is important that British firms, particularly in the beer and pub sector, can continue to seek international talent for soft skills shortages, including non-graduates, in the UK, and we await further details of how any new work permit system might work.”

‘Concrete action’ sought

Meanwhile, the ALMR and the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) have also voiced their concerns over EU workers’ rights to remain and work in the UK once Britain leaves the EU.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “We are still looking to the Government for concrete action rather than unconvincing reassurances. Securing the right to remain for our enormously valuable team members is crucial to the ongoing success of the UK’s hospitality sector.”

BII chief executive officer Mike Clist said: “For our businesses to survive, the Government needs to reassure our operators and employees it will ensure that, whatever agreement they come to, does not result in a shortage of staff throughout our industry.”

Nicholls also stressed that leaving the EU will present the Government an opportunity to cut VAT for the hospitality sector, allowing employers to “invest” and make their businesses “grow”.

‘Too soon to judge’

However, Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) national chairman Colin Valentine claimed it would be “too soon to judge” how the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU could have an effect on the “interest of drinkers”.

He said: "While we share the concerns expressed by others about the possible effect of leaving the EU, we would hope one of the potential benefits could be an alteration in the tax and rates regimes. These currently see off-sales outlets enjoying a considerable advantage over pubs and other such venues.”

Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) chief executive Miles Beale said the size and contribution of the wine and spirit industry as well as its influence with "key" trading partners should not be "ignored". 

He said: "We hope the Government succeeds in negotiating the best possible deals for uninterrupted trade with the EU upon leaving the single market and welcome the aim to achieve tariff free access.

"We also wish to see the government achieve the best possible platform for bilateral trade deals with priority countries, including government recognising the value of industry preparing the ground in advance - as the WSTA has already started to do. 

'Very worrying' for the industry

Last week the Government "toned down" proposals to charge £1,000 a year to those who employ EU workers in their business.

The levy, which would have been introduced in April 2017, was suggested by immigration minister Robert Goodwill and could have added more pressure to pubs, restaurants and hotels.

British Hospitality Association (BHA) chief executive Ufi Ibrahim said: "The suggestion is very worrying for the hospitality and tourism industry."

She added: "The Government must work closely with with businesses in industries such as ours, to develop robust, sustainable proposals to help navigate Brexit." 

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