Government 'sleepwalking' into post-Brexit food security problems - reports

Posted On: 
17th July 2017

The Government is "sleepwalking" into a "huge set of issues" on the security of the UK's food supply after Brexit, academics have warned.

The academics warned of the potential for 'chronic volatility' in food prices
Credit: 
PA

A new report on food security from three leading experts said food security could be "seriously undermined" by leaving the EU and accused ministers of "an astonishing act of political irresponsibility".

One of the authors, Prof Tim Lang of City University, described the situation as a "serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale".

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Among the potential problems the reports warns of is potential tariffs and extra costs from customs delay once the UK departs the customs union. 

The problem could be especially pronounced because the UK imports some 80% of its fresh vegetables and 40% of its fruit.

The end of EU subsidies to farmers could leave the food supply "chronically prone to volatilities of supplies and prices," the authors add.

The academics also claim consumers could be at risk from a lighter-touch regulatory regime after Brexit.

“There are also serious risks that standards of food safety will decline if the UK ceases to adopt EU safety rules, and instead accepts free-trade agreements with countries with significantly weaker standards," the report reads. 

Prof Erik Millstone of Sussex University said it appeared little work had been done to address these potential difficulties.

“We are surprised at the failure of the government to address a huge set of issues related to food and agriculture," he said. 

"They give the impression of sort of sleepwalking into this.”