Brexit: Consequences for food companies

At the moment (pre-Brexit) businesses which have actual control of food products and processes on the ground have primary responsibility to make sure that EU food regulations are met. All food which is moved freely between EU countries carries a unique code, allowing it to be identified. For meat for example, this reference number tells us its country of original, the source or farm of the animal came from and where it was slaughtered. This is so the EU can regulate and control what products are brought into EU countries.

If the government does not secure a free trade deal in the Brexit negotiations UK exports will be affected as the UK will no longer be within the EU food processing regulations and no longer able to use the above coding system. The effect on food companies is that they will need to look to other third countries outside of the EU to trade with, or find a way to continue to trade within the EU, although this is likely to come with cost implications.

Post Brexit UK food distributors may no longer be able to ship their products into other EU countries without being approved to export that specific category of food and also being on the list of approved third countries for that specific category of food. These approvals are expensive and not readily available.

Effectively, the UK will be treated as any other non-EU third country (such as USA or Australia) for the purposes of importing food into the EU. It seems inevitable that UK food products sold on the EU market will reduce after Brexit. The impact of this on UK businesses is concerning, with some companies already devising Brexit plans, setting up offices and moving staff aboard so they ‘remain’ within the EU.

The practical effect of the UK needing such separate approvals to ship food into the EU is beginning to show with some EU companies moving their supply chain out of the UK meaning that food produced in the UK is no longer being shipped into the EU at the same rate.

July 2018
David Anderson