In a joint statement, the unions said that the document provided “additional clarity” on what the UK’s future trading relationship could be. It also said it was “imperative” that the UK’s independent trade policy did not undermine the current standards and continued a close relationship with Europe.
The unions also welcomed the proposal for a free trade area in the white paper, especially as they have long-maintained that free and frictionless trade between the EU and UK is crucial for food and farming. They said they were pleased to see the government intends to maintain standards in food produced by British farmers as part of the deal.
The statement said: “If British farmers are to continue playing their part in providing high-quality and affordable food to the British public, as well as delivering for the environment, the principle of a free trade area for goods, including agri-food, is vital for our sector.”
The government said, however, that it was prepared to allow EU citizens to travel to the UK without a visa for temporary work and tourism.
Unions responded to the white paper’s proposal commitment to end the free movement of people between the UK and the EU, saying that “there must be recognition of the importance of both seasonal and permanent workers from outside of the UK that help farms to continue producing food for the nation”.
The document did not detail how migration would work after Brexit, but a second white paper is expected to be published in autumn. It said: “The food and farming industry continue to urge government to proceed with an immigration policy that is based on fact and business need, reflecting the importance of these workers to our food and farming sector.
“We call on the UK government and the European Commission to work urgently to achieve an agreement on trade and we look forward to working with both in the ongoing negotiations.”