Food security, affordability, safety and hygiene along with the stewardship of the countryside could all be placed in jeopardy in the UK if the food processing and farming sectors are denied access to Europe’s single market and free access to foreign labour in the post-Brexit world.
That was the message given to both the Scottish and UK governments by the largest coalition of food producers ever to come together in the UK’s history, which are collectively worth over £92 billion and employ close to a million workers.
The call for tariff-free access to the single market – and continued access to a competent and reliable workforce – was made in a letter sent to the Prime Minister, Scotland’s First Minister and other key government offices.
Co-ordinated by the UK’s farming unions, including NFU Scotland, the letter saw 75 organisations pledge that granted these conditions they would work towards a positive, bold and ambitious vision following the UK’s exit from Europe.
The letter, which was signed by companies including Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Graham’s the Family Dairy, Morrisons, Müller and ScotBeef, said that food production was the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, bigger than the automotive and aerospace sectors combined.
Calling agriculture a “litmus test” for the government’s Brexit negotiations, NFUS president Allan Bowie said: “As the sector most heavily impacted by the referendum outcome, if the government can make British farming a success post-Brexit then it will be the clearest indication that the country can succeed outside Europe.
“But to deliver this new future, we must secure the best possible access to the single market and continued access to a competent and reliable workforce.”