Food and drink industry bodies have warned that Brexit-related pressures mean the Government should halt a series of consultations and policy initiatives that affect recycling.
Heads of 32 food, farming and drink trade associations told environment secretary Michael Gove in a letter that, if he persisted, they would take this as a sign of bad faith and might refuse to co-operate.
Consultations they want paused include the bottle deposit return scheme, a consistent national recycling collection service, the overhaul of the packaging recovery note system and the proposed tax on plastic goods with less than 30% recycled content.
The associations told Gove in their letter: “Businesses throughout the UK food chain, and their trade associations, are now totally focused on working to mitigate the catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit. Large amounts of time, money, people and effort are being diverted to that end.
“At this moment of potential crisis for our industry, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ within Government.
“Neither we nor our members have the physical resources nor organisational bandwidth to engage with and properly respond to non-Brexit related policy consultations or initiatives at this time. The Government has recruited many extra staff; we cannot.”
They urged him to pause all food and drink-related consultations and said that, if this did not happen, “it will be seen by some as a sign of bad faith and many organisations may decline to respond”.
Defra said Gove would issue a formal response to the letter “in due course”.
A Defra spokesperson said: ”Leaving the EU with a deal remains the Government’s top priority, and we are meeting weekly with representatives from our food and drink industry to help prepare for all scenarios.
“While we have intensified our no deal planning, we are continuing to tackle other priority issues that matter to people, including our plans to reduce plastic waste and deliver a Green Brexit.”
This story was updated on 13 February to include the comment from Defra.