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Analysis

Even ‘adequate food supplies’ in doubt after no-deal Brexit

by Max Waller | 27.07.2018

Should we be stockpiling food for fear of a no-deal Brexit? That’s the question ministers have left us with as they head off on their holidays this week. Brexit secretary Dominic Raab insisted there will be “adequate food supplies”. But even the suggestion there might not be is a seriously irresponsible position for a government to put its people in.

30% of the food currently consumed in the UK is imported from the EU. Amidst the immediate chaos of a no-deal Brexit, we risk being cut off from that. Raab tried to allay fears, saying the “idea that we only get food imports into this country from one continent is not appropriate”. But all the other continents combined only provide 21% of our food, with the remaining 49% grown in the UK. No other continent individually provides more than 5% of our food. Trade would have to be ramped up dramatically and fast if they were to replace European imports.

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The main threat to food supplies from a no-deal Brexit is logistical. The government’s own no-deal contingency plans, leaked to the Sunday Times, calculated that the Port of Dover – through which 90% of EU food imports enter – would “collapse on day one” after Brexit, thanks to burdensome customs and food-safety checks suddenly being applied. That means lots of potentially perishable food being stuck in tailbacks. The government analysis said areas furtherest from the port, such as Scotland or Cornwall, could see food shortages “within a couple of days”.

Another concern is the price of food rising dramatically. There’s a risk suppliers couldn’t even afford bringing food into the country. “If there’s no deal, you’d expect sterling to tank, so people are trying to hedge against those concerns by storing ingredients like spices that can be kept in dry storage,” Ian Wright, director-general of the Food and Drink Federation told the FT.

The next problem is where to put all these stockpiles. Dry goods can be stored anywhere, but Wright warned of a “shortage of chilled and frozen warehousing” in southern England. It’s also unclear whose job it is to stockpile, with Raab claiming it would be “wrong to describe it as the government doing the stockpiling”. However, supermarkets say they hasn’t asked them to do it either, the FT revealed. One supermarket chief said the government’s position was “ridiculous” and demonstrated “complete naivety” about how the sector worked.

This is what Brexit has become. A developed nation, the fifth largest economy in the world, having difficulties getting hold of food because the government is refusing to abandon its Brexit dogma. What a mess.

This article was amended after publication to make it clear that whereas the UK could face difficulties in getting hold of food, it would not run out of food entirely.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

6 Responses to “Even ‘adequate food supplies’ in doubt after no-deal Brexit”

  • For rabb to say ” the idea we only get food imports into this country from one continent is inappropriate” is total twisting of the truth, we get about 50%from home grown produce, and just 20% from other continents apart from the EU that delivers 30% so without that third of food imports we will be in shit street with huge shortages ,by “we” I mean you and me, the poorer end of society ,unemployed ,disabled ,single parents and working people on minimum wage and uncertain hourly work, but you can bet your bottom dollar that the ones who got us into this mess won’t go hungry, they will still be living fat off the hog. Sorry for this rant but just you wait and see! Jim.

  • The wealthy and entitled will never ever go hungry or experience anything more than an occasional inconvenience when their favourite brand is unavailable the moment that they want it. People currently relying on food banks will feel the pinch first and be the hardest hit. The final sentence in this article is a bit Trumpian as he likes to comment ‘what a mess’ about things he disagrees with and is famous too for doing something ‘bigly’ to remedy the problem. Thanks for a good wake up call on the reality of food supplies.

  • That we are even talking about food shortages highlights the utter lunacy of this government’s shenanigans – all because a hard-line reactionary section of the Tory Party cannot come to terms with our EU membership/partnership.

  • There is also the small detail that at the moment we import food as a member of the EU not as the UK and are subject to EU trade agreements. Once we are out how long is it going to take to agree trade deals with all of the individual countries. Every time one stops to think one discovers something else the government has not considered.

  • I would love to hear Mrs May’s broadcast to the nation on 29 March 2019 telling us to prepare for going back to wartime rationing because that is what we all voted for in 2016. And then to see the political fallout that would be bound to follow.

    Almost a pity that Parliament won’t let it happen. Will it?

  • 52% thought we will. Be better off outside the EU
    52% thought we will. Be better off outside the EU
    52% thought we will. Be better off outside the EU
    Laugh or Cry 🤣😱