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STONELEIGH, UK: May 29, 2018. Britain’s farming sector, representing over 100 organisations in the country’s food supply chain, has warned British prime minister Theresa May that the future production and supply of food relies on maintaining frictionless trade with the European Union (EU).

According to a ‘Food and Supply Chain Manifesto’ released by the National Farmers Union (NFU), a post-Brexit Britain and the EU27 will continue to be each other’s most important trading markets in food and drink. In 2016, 60 percent of UK exports and 70 percent of imports in food, feed and drink were with the EU.

Collectively, the UK agri-food sector employs 3.8 million people and is worth £112 billion to the UK economy. In addition, farmers spend over £16 billion a year on inputs and services from companies that provide the UK economy with a significant proportion of jobs and growth, particularly outside major urban areas.

NFU president Minette Batters The NFU warns the sector will be “deeply affected” by Britain’s exit from the EU as many employers rely on a high proportion of non-UK permanent and seasonal labour sourced from the EU.

In addition, it says many companies are part of highly sophisticated and integrated supply chains that rely on the free flow of goods between the UK and other EU member states, free of tariffs, veterinary and Customs checks, and subject only to necessary phytosanitary checks; and many operate under an array of regulations and programmes derived from Brussels and applicable to all EU businesses.

“It is clear that the effect of the decision to leave the EU is already being felt in the sector as uncertainty and lack of clarity impacts business confidence,” says the manifesto.

The NFU is also calling on the government to publish a White Paper that acknowledges food and drink to be a critical part of the national infrastructure and therefore must be supported by an immigration policy that prevents future workforce shortages.

Speaking on behalf of the signatories, NFU president Minette Batters (pictured) warned “that a Brexit that fails to champion UK food producers, and the businesses that rely on them, will be bad for the country’s landscape, the economy - and critically our society.

"When it comes to the nation's ability to produce food, we believe it is critical that the different elements of Brexit are carefully considered by all government departments - including the prime minister,” she added.

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