'No deal' Brexit could push up fruit and veg prices, says ex-trade minister
Leaving the European Union without a deal could see the cost of fruit and vegetables soar, a former trade minister has warned.
Lord Price - an ex-Waitrose managing director who quit his role as Trade Minister last September - said supermarkets would be unable to hoard fresh food, including meat and dairy products, in the same way they can store canned goods if trade routes are disrupted by a 'no deal'.
The comments come after Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed that the Government is making plans to maintain an "adequate food supply" if the UK and EU fail to strike a deal. Theresa May yesterday insisted those preparations - as well as moves to stockpile medicines - were "responsible and sensible".
But the Conservative peer warned: "The area that we are most vulnerable in is fruit and veg.
"We only produce in this country about 25 per cent of the fruit and veg we consume. On fruit 30 per cent comes from Europe, the rest comes from around the world, but on vegetables 80 per cent comes from Europe and particularly Spain’s salad crops."
He told the BBC's Today programme that while supermarkets could up their imports from places like New Zealand, importers would still face disruption if the UK reverts to World Trade Organisation tariffs under a 'no deal' scenario.
"They may think about air freight, they may think about shipping," he said.
"But all these things are going to add cost and they are going to add to the cost of a tariff that will be applied because the EU has pretty penal tariffs on food, to protect European farmers.
"What you will see is rather than a pinch on supply - although that is highly likely - is a pretty significant increase in the cost of fruit and veg, the cost of meat and the cost of dairy products."
Both the EU and UK have stepped up their contingency planning for a 'no deal' in recent weeks, with Mr Raab admitting Britain would face "uncertainty" in the short term under such a scenario.
But he told MPs: "I’m not going to wallow in pessimism about the state of this country in relation to Brexit. We’re going to go into these negotiations with economic confidence and political ambition. I’m not going to allow us to be cowed in a corner afraid of our own shadow."
Online retail giant Amazon is meanwhile reported to have told Mr Raab last week that the firm had planned for "civil unrest" in the wake of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.