Uncertain future following referendum leave decision
Published:  24 June, 2016

The meat industry has warned of future “uncertainty” following Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU. 

The decision to leave the EU was voted in with a majority of 51.9%, with a 72.2% turnout. A Meat Trades Journal online poll before the referendum had put the leave camp at 55%, reflecting the overall result.

A British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) spokesman said: “The decision this morning will lead to a period of significant uncertainty. The BMPA will be working hard to ensure the interests of the British meat industry are recognised over the next few months as the new relationship with Europe starts to emerge.”

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Meurig Raymond said: “The vote to leave the European Union will inevitably lead to a period of uncertainty in a number of areas that are of vital importance to Britain’s farmers.

“The NFU will engage fully and constructively with the British government to construct new arrangements. This needs to happen as soon as possible.

“Our members will rightly want to know the impact on their businesses as a matter of urgency. We understand that the negotiations will take some time to deliver but it is vital that there is early commitment to ensure British farming is not disadvantaged. It is vital that British farming is profitable and remains competitive, it is the bedrock of the food industry – Britain’s largest manufacturing sector.”

The NFU has called an extraordinary meeting of NFU Council, its governing body, for Friday 1 July 2016.


Norman Bagley, policy director at the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), said the decision would be positive for the industry. "The immediate drop in the pound should give exports a lift and provide farmers with a welcome boost to their prices after a long period in the doldrums.

"As negotiations proceed over the coming months and years we will also seek to maximize the potential benefits that could be available for domestic abattoirs and processors in raining back some of the worst excesses of regulatory controls that contribute nothing to public health.”  

Chairman of Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) Dai Davies said:

“Hybu Cig Cymru’s focus remains on securing the best deal for levy-payers, and a sustainable future for the Welsh red meat industry.

“The result will undoubtedly lead to a period of uncertainty; HCC has an important role to play in mitigating any instability and ensuring the maintenance of current trade.

“Our essential task in the long term is securing the best trading deals for Wales – maintaining our existing export markets in Europe, and continuing our work in developing new trading relationships further afield.

“The First Minister has this morning outlined six priorities for Wales. HCC will play an active role in finding solutions to these key issues which are in the best interests of the red meat industry. These include the terms of access to the European single market, the future of participation in existing CAP and RDP programmes, and the future of PGI certification."

A Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) spokesman said: "Throughout the inevitable period of uncertainty which will follow the UK's vote to leave the European Union, we are confident that the quality of Scotland's red meat industry provides our members with a strong foundation on which to build future business.

"Change is often uncomfortable but also creates fresh or different opportunities for businesses as markets adjust to new structures and new relationships.

"SAMW will be looking for the governments in Scotland and the UK to ensure the smoothest possible business and trading transition to the country's new non-EU status. Our members exist to do business, having always traded both domestically and around the world, with considerable success. We believe Scotland's red meat quality speaks for itself in the world market.

"SAMW's aim today therefore is to ensure that government leaders, officials and agencies do what is necessary to enable our members to grow and develop as we move into this new phase of UK history."

Commenting on the vote to leave, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB's) chief executive, Jane King, said:

“The AHDB focus remains unaffected by the decision to leave the EU - to equip levy payers with the tools to become more competitive and sustainable.

“Amongst other issues, the decision to leave brings to the fore the need for UK government to target the best new trading relationships we can for UK food & agriculture both with the EU and other countries.

“AHDB has the skills and expertise to contribute to this work in areas such as market prioritisation, market access negotiations and facilitating relationships between UK exporters and overseas buyers. We stand ready to support the industry in identifying how it can best compete outside the EU.

“These issues will take time to resolve, but AHDB will play a full part in ensuring UK agriculture is a leading player on the global stage.”

President of the British Veterinary Association Sean Wensley said: "The UK's decision to leave the European Union will have a significant impact on matters of interest to the veterinary profession, particularly in relation to regulation, education, and workforce planning, but also in terms of animal welfare, research, surveillance, and animal movements.

"BVA will work hard to ensure the voice of the veterinary profession is heard during the negotiation and discussions that will now begin, in order to secure the best possible outcomes for our profession and for animal health and welfare in the UK.

"The Vet Futures report provides an excellent summary of issues we need to consider in those discussions, and the Vet Futures Action Plan, due to be launched at the Vet Futures Summit on 4 July, outlines key initiatives that we need to take forward, albeit with revised timelines while the full impact of Brexit is determined."


Ian Wright CBE, director general at the Food and Drink Federation, said the industry would be disappointed with the result.

“In March we released the results of a poll of our members which showed 70% support for Britain to remain in the EU. It's inevitable in the light of those results that the majority of FDF members will regard this as a disappointing result for the food and drink industry.

“Now FDF will work on behalf of our members and all those across our industry to find a way through this very challenging period that we face. We'll focus on working with the government to understand what this means for trading, market access and regulation to secure the best outcome for British food and drink manufacturing businesses and their customers.”

Liz Murphy, chief executive officer at the International Meat Trade Association, called for continuity of trade while the divorce process was ironed out. “It will be vital to all member companies that access to imported meat sources as well as export markets is maintained. Therefore we will be looking for the UK government to ensure continuity of trade in the next two years.

“Around 45% of meat and meat products are imported. Industry and UK consumers expect access to high quality meat products, and require stability and a continued supply from all sources including the EU. This is crucial in order to keep the nation fed, to ensure continued access to supplies for the retail, foodservice, manufacturing and wholesale sectors.

“Around 24% of British meat is exported to markets in the EU and globally. Continued access to these markets is critical to ensure full support for the British farmer and the meat sector as a whole enabling us to export our high quality UK meat. It is vital for the economy and employment that we continue to have trade in both directions.”

The referendum result caused the pound to plummet to a 30-year low while the FTSE 100 index fell more than 500 points.

More to follow