No-deal Brexit would leave many businesses facing ‘extinction’, warns food industry chief

Caitlin Morrison

A number of British businesses are at risk of “extinction” if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead, the head of the Food and Drink Federation has claimed.

The warning comes after the UK food industry threatened to break off cooperation with the government because of the “catastrophic” risk of leaving the EU with no deal in place.

On Monday, the heads of more than 30 trade associations told Michael Gove, the environment secretary, that they cannot “respond to non-Brexit-related policy consultations or initiatives”.

Organisations including the FDF, the National Farmers’ Union and the Federation of Bakers said all attention should be focused on how to deal with a no-deal Brexit, which is becoming “ever more the likeliest outcome”.

On Tuesday, Ian Wright, the FDF’s chief executive, told the BBC: “A third of my staff on any one day are in conversations and discussions with government representatives to help planning for a no-deal Brexit. This is becoming all consuming and the dangers are huge.

“Many businesses are threatened with extinction.”

He added: “One in 10 of our members surveyed last week believe that a no-deal Brexit could cause them such damage that they might have to go out of business.”

The food and drink bosses’ letter to the government comes weeks after the UK’s biggest retailers, including Sainsbury’s, Asda and Waitrose, warned politicians that a no-deal Brexit in March will see items disappear from supermarket shelves and could put the UK’s food security at risk.

A disorderly Brexit and trading under World Trade Organisation terms would cause “significant disruption” and push up food prices, the group said.