Brexit: food prices and availability report published by Committee
10 May 2018
The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee publishes its report on the potential impacts of Brexit on the price and availability of food for UK consumers.
Thirty per cent of food eaten in the UK comes from the EU, and another 11 per cent from non-EU countries under the terms of trade deals negotiated by the EU. Whilst the UK Government hopes to negotiate a trade agreement to allow tariff-free and ‘frictionless’ imports of food to continue, this is by no means a guaranteed outcome.
The Committee found that even in the ‘best case scenario’, with no tariffs and few customs barriers, international rules would oblige the UK to conduct more customs and borders checks than is currently the case. If an agreement cannot be negotiated by the time the UK leaves the EU the increase in tariffs could lead to significant price rises for consumers, whilst the additional customs workload could choke the UK’s ports and airports and significantly disrupt food deliveries.
The Committee found that EU food imports could not easily be replaced by either producing more in the UK or importing more from non-EU countries. UK self-sufficiency has been declining for the past 30 years, and could not quickly be reversed, whilst even Food Minister George Eustice MP downplayed the scale of new post-Brexit trade deals when he appeared before the Committee.
Lord Teverson, Chairman of the Sub-Committee, said:
“The Government has some important choices to make. They have said they want to maintain high food standards but also that they would be willing to have minimal customs checks to avoid disruption at borders. They have said they want UK food and farming to be exemplars of high-quality production but also that they will seek trade deals that secure lower prices for consumers.
We are calling on the Government to set out what checks they do intend to carry out on food imports, to allow the food industry and customs authorities time to prepare and to reassure consumers that standards will be upheld. And we would urge the Government to consider the impact that Brexit may have on food inequality in the UK: will we have a situation where high quality, local produce is available for those who can afford it, with cheaper food imported for those on lower incomes? The UK needs a comprehensive food policy, to tackle these complex issues, and we urge the Government to produce one with some urgency.”
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