Food and drink industry calls for ‘functioning’ single market, Brexit certainty

90% of revenue from EU food and drink sales comes from within the single market. [RomeoLu/Shutterstock]

Europe’s food and drink industry has urged the EU to rigorously enforce the bloc’s single market rules, and warned that Brexit poses a real threat to the future of many of its businesses.

The 289,000 companies in the EU food chain generate an annual turnover of more than €1 trillion and provide some 4.2 million jobs, making food and drink the bloc’s biggest manufacturing sector.

The industry grew by 3.4% from 2012-2013 and is on track to meet its target of 2.5-3.5% annual growth by 2025.

But in a new report, FoodDrinkEurope, the trade association representing the sector at EU level, has warned policymakers that barriers to the single market, which it describes as “one of the EU’s greatest achievements”, as well as the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, have put the industry’s growth at risk.

In its report, FoodDrinkEurope warned that differing interpretations of EU law by different countries create unnecessary problems for companies and urged the European Commission to produce a comprehensive single market strategy to ensure that rules are enforced correctly and coherently across the bloc.

Agri-food industries highlight risks of hard Brexit, demand clarity

The EU’s food and drink industry has joined forces with farmers and agri-food traders to call for a smooth Brexit transition and highlight the damage a cliff-edge EU exit would do to the bloc’s food chain.

Some 90% of the industry’s turnover is generated within the EU single market.

Put business needs over political games

Another threat the industry association identified to its growth targets is the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and the single market.

The trade association pointed out that once outside the bloc, the UK will be the EU’s largest trading partner in food and drinks and called on policymakers to ensure transitional agreements are in place to offer more certainty to businesses.

The food and drinks supply chains are very closely integrated and any post-Brexit border controls could have a disastrous impact on some sectors. the report states.

On the island of Ireland, for example, the dairy sector operates as one, with milk often crossing the North-South border several times between the farm and the point of sale. The industry will need time to adapt to the new circumstances after Brexit and FoodDrinkEurope warned that the duration of any transitional agreement “should be determined by business needs to get ready for the new EU27-UK trade regime and not by political requirements”.

The final agreement, the report states, should provide the ambition and balance that businesses need to remain competitive.

Hard border could spell the end for Northern Ireland’s dairy processors

Controls on the Irish border could make the island’s dairy industry “unworkable”, while tariffs could force Northern Irish milk processors out of business altogether, the sector has warned.



FoodDrinkEurope is the organisation of Europe’s food and drink industry. Our supply and manufacturing chains are largely integrated across the EU, whether for small or large businesses, and so is the intra-EU trade. The free circulation of goods guaranteed by the Single Market is essential to a competitive food industry, to uphold its 4.2 million jobs and its growth ambition.

For a Single Market with a purpose

For a Single Market with a purpose

The EU food and drink industry, the largest manufacturing sector in terms of turnover, value added and employment, is a strong advocate for a real Single Market. To that end, FoodDrinkEurope calls for:

  • High-level political commitment towards the Single Market, leading to a long-term vision
  • Prioritisation of Single Market issues at EU level focusing on a strong, competitive and sustainable supply chain
  • High-level coordination to ensure a relevant regulatory framework to support European industry
  • Improved functioning of mutual recognition in the non-harmonised areas

Read our Manifesto and find out more.

Industry working with farmers

The food and drink industry builds long-term partnerships with Europe’s farmers to secure a local agricultural supply, creates value and develops market opportunities for agricultural products and connects farmers and consumers in the food chain.

Find out more in our latest report.


FoodDrinkEurope aims to play an active role in the Brexit process. Our goal is to ensure the least disruptive outcome for the food and drink sector at large.

Click here to read FoodDrinkEurope's recommendations on the Brexit negotiations.

"Small Scale, Big Impact": Europe"s food and drink SMEs

Out of 289,000 food and drink companies in Europe, 9 in 10 are SMEs. They are present in every region and stand for both tradition and innovation in our industry. They are also at the heart of the Single Market. They may be small in scale, but they are big in impact. They may be small in scale, but they are big in impact.

They may be small in scale, but they are big in impact.

Each of them has a story to tell…

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