United Kingdom food industry sets out Brexit priorities, urges government clarity

EU chief negotiator Michel triggered a furious row last week when he claimed at a press conference that leaving the customs union would guarantee a hard Irish border

One of these is the UK's right to object to new European Union rules that it will have to apply after 2019 during the two-year transitional period.

"It's worked for us with 26 consecutive years of economic growth, partially because we've opened our market to the world", he added.

Farming and food bodies have urged the United Kingdom government to clarify policies that will affect the sector post-Brexit, warning perceived indecision is "already being felt in the sector as uncertainty and lack of clarity impacts business confidence".

David Davis said he was "surprised" to hear Mr Barnier was unclear on the UK's stance on the transition period.

The pound skidded on Friday after the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned a transition deal was far from assured. There would be an 11 per cent decrease in economic growth with the government's preferred outcome of a #Free Trade Deal with the European Union but leaving with no deal would cause a 16 per cent hit in the North-east, staying in the single market would cause a 3 per cent drop.

The Irish prime minister said a comprehensive free trade and customs deal between the United Kingdom and European Union was the best way of avoiding problems at the frontier.

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The tour comes as the United Kingdom prepares to reveal further details of its approach to the next phase of the Brexit process, which will focus on a transitional deal for the period after leaving the bloc in March 2019 and the future trading relationship with Brussels.

The Irish border remains a major sticking point, with Mr Barnier telling reporters "any solution must be precise, clear and unambiguous".

He said: "What we agreed to do is co-operate at official level, the two governments exploring together how we can realise the commitments and guarantees that were given in December that a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland would be avoided". The West Midlands would see a 8 per cent decline with a freelancer trade deal, under a no deal it would be hit 13 per cent and just 2.5 per cent if the United Kingdom remained in the single market. China, now a critically important destination for UK pork, is now the 8th largest export market for UK food and drink, worth over £560 million in 2017, with UK salmon and whisky also popular. "They have demanded this transitional period", said Michel Barnier.

To some this sounds like staying in the single market and customs union - but other options, preferred by the United Kingdom, to avoid border checks are still on the table.

But he added: "Time is short - very short - and we haven't a minute to lose if we want to succeed".

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