JDW rejects warnings of 'catastrophic' Brexit impact on food-and-drink sector

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

Orderly Brexit: trade bodies and industry leaders have given evidence as part of a BEIS inquiry
Orderly Brexit: trade bodies and industry leaders have given evidence as part of a BEIS inquiry

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Trade bodies have warned MPs that an "orderly" Brexit is needed, with a bad deal being "catastrophic" for the food and drink sector, however JD Wetherspoon's chair claimed this is "misleading".

An orderly withdrawal from the EU, with certainty and clarity for business "is a must", ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls told the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Select Committee investigating the impact of Brexit on the food and drink industry yesterday (December 13).

“We need an orderly Brexit with plenty of detail for employers at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that this growth is not undermined unduly," she said after the meeting.

“The Government has an opportunity to press hard and deliver on three priorities for the sector: an orderly withdrawal from the EU; a comprehensive transition; and a bold, ambitious trade agreement deal that provides stability and access to labour and continues to encourage overseas investment that supports many of the UK’s vibrant and important eating and drinking out businesses.”

Catastrophic

Also giving evidence at the meeting, Ian Wright, director general for the Food and Drink Federation, said the impact of a no deal would be "catastrophic" for the food and drink sector.

"Anyone who thinks a disorderly exit is anything other than very, very bad for the UK, and in particular for the UK shoppers, is wrong".

"We are never going to run out of food, people aren't going to starve. This is a first world problem.

"It's choice will be impacted, availability will be impacted, it means profitability will be impacted. We enjoy at the moment, the most available choice at all price points in the UK of any country in the world.

"If we think of our parents generation, they regard this as unheralded, an extraordinary cornucopia. It's that which is at risk."

Nicholls added to Wrights comments: "It's the pricing point that is key from our point of view.

"You have customers who have got used to a long period of low inflation, and suddenly food inflation in our sector has jumped to 9%. So they are seeing a difference in the cost of their pint when they go out, the cost of a plate of food, which means they won't necessarily go out as frequently." 

Misleading

However, JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin, who also gave evidence at the committee, has since criticised Wright's comments, and said: "Ian Wright was completely incorrect to say that the consequences of no deal would be catastrophic.

"In fact, the EU charges tariffs on non-EU food imports.

"MPs have the power to reduce food prices in March 2019 and to eliminate £200m of weekly payments to the EU."

He added: "It's certainly very bizarre that senior industry figures can get basic factual matters completely wrong 18 months after the referendum."

Related topics: Legislation

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