Government: Brexit is a "golden opportunity" for UK food and drink sector

Alys Key
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Free trade deals could boost the sector, Defra said

The government has hit back at a select committee report on food and drink after Brexit, insisting that leaving the EU is a "golden opportunity" for the sector.

A spokesperson from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said the UK could secure free trade deals while supporting farmers.

“We are clear that any future deals must work for UK farmers, producers and consumers," they said.

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The response came as the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee released a report warning that no Brexit deal would be disastrous for the food and drink industry.

Rachel Reeves MP, chair of the BEIS committee, said: "To ensure the continued success of our food and drinks industry, the Government must provide clarity and certainty on our future relationship with the EU and seek continued regulatory, standards, and trading alignment with the EU in the processed food and drink sector".

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The report highlighted concerns over the movement of goods across the Irish border.

Drinks giant Diageo told the committee that a 15-minute wait for each truck at the border would cost the company £1.3m per year.

A third of the food and drink sector's workforce is made up of EU nationals, according to the report.

It also warned that consumers were unlikely to accept a lowering of standards once the UK leaves the EU regulatory regime.

"British consumers are very discerning and rightly expect the highest food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards," said Reeves.

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