Food sector must plan for regulatory divergence post-Brexit

Food Drink Ireland (FDI), the Ibec group that represents the sector, today called on the Government and the European Commission to ensure that food regulation remains a top priority throughout Brexit negotiations and in any future free trade agreement with the UK. The group said any new EU-UK arrangement must aim to minimise the potential for regulatory divergence, which would increase costs and create barriers to trade.

Speaking at the FDI Brexit Regulatory Conference in Dublin today, FDI Director Paul Kelly said : “Regulatory divergence as a result of Brexit is a significant risk factor that Irish food and drink companies must plan for. EU food safety legislation and compliance by food business operators underpins consumer confidence as the standards are the highest in the world. However, Brexit brings a significant risk of regulatory divergence, and with that comes the likelihood of different and potentially lower standards. This will serve to increase costs and complexity of doing business."

The conference emphasised the importance of maintaining equivalent standards on food safety, animal health and welfare, and the environment post-Brexit. The need for transitional arrangements of sufficient length to allow food businesses plan and prepare for any new arrangements was also highlighted.

Dr Pamela Byrne, CEO, Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and keynote speaker at the Conference said: “Protection of consumers’ health and interests needs to be a central focus of the upcoming negotiations. The maintenance of high standards of food safety are key to providing assurances to consumers that their food is safe and that the industry is complying with European law which is the legal framework that we will continue to enforce. Achieving our vision of safe and trustworthy food for everyone will continue to drive our activities over the coming years. Delivering on our objective of a world class official control system is now more important than ever, as we will be required to provide assurances to our colleagues in the European Union that Ireland has a robust regulatory framework and can provide the evidence to support this. The FSAI recognises the concerns from industry and has put Brexit on the agenda of all future engagements with industry to facilitate information exchange. We will also strengthen our relationships with key regulatory stakeholders in the UK to share concerns and explore opportunities that will allow us to protect consumers from a food safety, integrity and authenticity perspective."

Closing the conference, Mr Kelly said: "The Irish food industry, which is now exporting to 180 countries, will continue its strategy of market diversification as it prepares for Brexit. The EU Single Market is an engine of food and drink export growth and must be protected from attempts to renationalise it. Mandatory country of origin labelling initiatives, by some member states, of dairy and processed meat products for example, are extremely damaging to the future of the Single Market and the future growth of our industry.”

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