James Smith, Chair of the UK Flavour Association, attended last week’s FDF Brexit Essentials event, at a particularly tumultuous time in the withdrawal process! Experts covered four key topics that are of most concern to the food and drink industry: supply chain, finance, workforce and food regulations.

Supply chain: experts talked about the need to plan for logistics, rules of origin and contract arrangements after the leave date. The advice was to plan for a no deal and all of the implications that would incur. A lack of planning for this by companies is a clear concern given that the food industry would be significantly impacted in a no deal situation based on tariffs, origin issues and contracts. The message was clear: there is simply no time to ‘wait and see’ anymore.

Finance: speakers shared mechanisms to help cash flow and manage risk in terms of foreign exchange – the advice was to speak now to your banks if you have concerns as they have a lot of planning already in place that could help you.

Workforce: the industry’s reliance on EU migrant workers is indisputable and the Settled and Pre-settled Status Scheme is going to be critical. However, this is not open until 30th March and we await the publishing of the immigration white paper, which is unlikely to be available this month, as previously planned.

Food regulations: although there is a common regulatory framework across the EU, many countries operate using their own interpretation of the rules. The experts expect that Brexit won’t alter that too much, but the UK is trying to build deeper relations with EFSA. The focus needs to be on ensuring British consumers and importers of British products won’t see any compromise in food safety and security and this is a key guarantee being made by the Government.

As things change day-by-day, the possibility of no-deal is becoming more real. It’s clear that all those involved in food and beverage manufacture and supply should cover all bases. What began as contingency plans may well become the only option.

For more information or advice on how to plan for all eventualities, the FDF and CBI have plenty of resources available.