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Keeping the communication channels open

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As the UK prepares to withdraw from the EU, CESA continues to fight for the interests of the equipment sector, chief executive Keith Warren tells Liz Cooley

The landslide victory for the Conservative Party in the UK General Election on 12 December came with a promise to “Get Brexit Done”. The new administration is expected to pass its Withdrawal Arrangement Bill before Christmas unamended, after which Britain will leave the European Union (EU) and begin formal negotiations on its future relationship.

But what will this mean for the foodservice equipment industry? Of key concern is the retention of tariff-free trade, keeping prices steady and ensuring supply.

Multiple recommendations

Advocating for the interests of foodservice equipment suppliers, manufacturers, importers, dealers and distributors, the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA) – which will rebrand to the Foodservice Equipment Association (FEA) effective from March 2020 – has made multiple recommendations to government over the last three years. As a deal is negotiated and the transition period begins, this work will now focus on holding government to account.

“Since the referendum we’ve been working hard to prepare the Brexit groundwork for our industry,” says CESA’s chief executive Keith Warren (pictured above). “We will be active in representing our member’s interests at the trade talks. One vital area is the campaign for no regulatory divergence, as this would increase the cost of manufacturing and potentially make the UK a dumping ground for non-compliant equipment.

“Manufacturers want to be able to put a product into the market and sell it in as many territories as possible.”

Over the next three to six months, CESA expects to work closely with government to inform strategy relating to the industry. “We have a very good relationship with government officials who are always keen to listen and take what we have to say on board, so any changes that are made do not have an adverse affect on foodservice equipment. It’s all about communication,” Warren explains.

Upholding the values

Meanwhile, the European Federation of Catering Equipment Manufacturers (EFCEM), of which CESA is a member, will continue to represent the UK sector in European policy developments. “This ensures that, even if we don’t have a seat at the EU table, our sector’s voice continues to be heard,” assures Warren. “EFCEM has a strong record representing the case for the foodservice equipment industry in these discussions.”

Regardless of any potential changes to regulation, Warren advises that businesses continue to uphold their key values and strategic objectives. “Basically, stick to what you’re good at doing and keep doing it. Keep talking to your suppliers and your customers and you will be in the best position to review your approach,” he says.

“The management boards we have across the foodservice equipment industry in the UK are strong, well resourced and have real-time commercial information to work from. With that in mind, and by keeping in touch with customers, businesses will be well placed to weather Brexit whatever the deal.”

Companies can also take advantage of the relevant product forums provided by CESA, offering more detailed specificity of any updates relating to the foodservice equipment industry.

With a clearer path forward now emerging, he remains cautiously optimistic: “This result gives the country certainty and a clarity of purpose. Hopefully this will eventually lead to increased investment and consumer confidence that will benefit the whole supply chain.”

Further details:

CESA represents 200 companies who supply, service and maintain all types of commercial catering equipment – from utensils to full kitchen schemes. For more information, visit cesa.org.uk.

Liz Cooley