The technical report by food security experts in no-deal Brexit

11th November 2018 / United Kingdom
The technical report by food security experts in no-deal Brexit

By TruePublica: Let’s not beat around the bush here. The current antagonistic debate by politicians pushing for a no-deal Brexit is about as sensible as forcing pregnant women to show passports at hospitals to prove they aren’t ‘foreigners’ (seriously, that now happens). But what really happens when it comes to, say, putting food on your table every day if a no-deal Brexit actually happened?


Ian Dunt at writes a piece about food security in a no-deal Brexit come next March, which is well worth the read. Dunt, of course, mentions a study by an expert on traffic modelling from Imperial College London who found that if the current average paperwork clearance of two minutes at Dover was increased to just four, there would be a 20-mile tailback within 24 hours on the UK side. Imagine that after just 7 days, especially as 10,000 trucks loaded with food arrive every day from Europe. This is because Britain only produces about 60 per cent of its food.

Dunt also goes on to mention a potential collapse of food protection systems and that Britain would be forced into accepting American food standards. If not, we could attempt to gear up on our own food production, but as we have said before and Dunt mentions again – “Alternately, the UK could try to move past the immediate chaos of no-deal, pull itself together, and level-up capacity so it could get the certification system demanded by the EU up and running. But here it runs into another problem, which feels disturbingly like the twist at the end of a morality tale: there aren’t enough vets, because they’re all from the EU.”

As I have said on numerous occasions, for the politicians, the core issue in the Brexit debate is – do we go with the EU or the US because the reality is, we can’t do both. The latter decision is at best stupid and at worst – well, catastrophic, for all sorts of reasons.

In the meantime, here is the report by three experts in the field of Britain’s food security. Their report, for scientists and academics, is typically fact-based modelling and its language is tempered and calm. Between the lines, it talks about the government preparing to dramatically change food regulations and therefore the UK’s food quality and reputation, which would force us down to American food standards. It also states quite clearly that the government is doing this without any public debate whatsoever.


Feeding Britain: Food security after Brexit


Amidst all the political uncertainties, the clock is ticking for UK food security. In the latest Food Brexit Briefing, leading food policy specialists urge the Government, food industry and the consuming public to keep focussed on food.

A careless Brexit poses significant risks to food flows into and out of the UK. According to the report, the Government recognises the serious consequences that may ensue because it is making contingency plans to suspend food regulations in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

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‘One could argue that this is sensible emergency planning,’ says co-author Prof Tim Lang, ‘but it is also risky. Consumers would rightly wonder who was guaranteeing the safety and quality of the imported food they were buying. Criminals would be alerted to opportunities for food fraud. And the move would send negative signals to the EU, at a delicate time in Brexit negotiations. It could make the UK’s 3rd country status more problematic for exports.’

Feeding Britain: Food security after Brexit is by Prof Tim Lang (City), Prof Erik Millstone (Sussex), Tony Lewis (Head of Policy, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health) and Prof Terry Marsden (Cardiff). It takes stock of how food, food security and food regulation are being addressed by HM Government in the Brexit discussions.

The authors welcome the fact that the Chequers Statement of 6 July and subsequent White Paper recognise the importance of agri-food to Brexit. But the documents have major weaknesses. The Government makes a fundamental mistake in proposing close alignment with the EU only for farming and manufacturing, but not for retail or food service. This injects a fault-line into the UK food system between production and service sectors, yet food service is by far the largest source of employment in the entire UK food chain and delivers more gross value added (29%) than the other sectors (agriculture 7%, wholesaling 11%, manufacturing 26%, retailing 27%).

The Government also appears to be ambiguous on the question of migrant workers and how essential they are to the current working of the UK food system.

Finally, too little attention is being paid to the special needs of Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, whose economies are highly food-dependent. Prof Terry Marsden says:

‘There is a strong need for the joint production of a sustainable food framework which involves the devolved regions of the UK and the regions of England, such that it enhances food security and creates the basis for more healthy food consumption in the UK as a whole.’

Feeding Britain also argues that an additional, unnecessary risk is being created by the Food Standards Agency’s decision to press ahead with major reform of UK food safety regulation, at a time when a stable regulatory regime should be in place as the basis of trade and Brexit negotiations. Prof Millstone says:

‘It is vital, in the context of negotiating and enacting Brexit, that the Food Standards Agency, and the UK government more generally, avoid any decisions, proposals or actions, that could adversely affect food safety standards in the UK or the reputation of the UK’s food supply.’

The paper provides a detailed analysis of the significance of the Regulating Our Future (ROF) reforms being undertaken by the Food Standards Agency. Tony Lewis, head of Policy at CIEH, says:

‘The public needs to know that ROF heralds fundamental changes to the way in which food safety, standards and animal feed are to be regulated.”

Read the full reports HERE




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