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No-Deal Brexit Will Cause Immediate and Ruinous Food Shortages, New Paper Says

Professor Tim Lang says “a troubling new food planning case study appears to be unfolding”

No-deal Brexit could cripple U.K.’s fresh food supply photo by Mike Kemp/In PIctures via Getty Images

A new paper on no-deal Brexit’s impact on the U.K. food supply suggests that the U.K. government is deliberately keeping details of potential food shortages, fresh food limits, and transport delays out of its public Brexit planning strategy. Professor of food policy at City University, Tim Lang, says that Britain faces “unprecedented” levels of disruption to food supply, with the severest implications for low income families and food banks. Here’s a digest:

No deal Brexit will disproportionately affect disadvantaged groups

Writing in the Lancet, Lang declares that “low-income groups in the UK would disproportionately be affected by the impacts of a no-deal Brexit on food prices and availability. November is at the end of the UK agricultural growing season, so the availability of domestic fresh produce will decline.” A group of leading food charities and food bank operators has already written to secretary of state for work and pensions Amber Rudd and secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs Michael Gove citing similar concerns, and calling for a hardship fund, “to guarantee that vulnerable adults and children will not go hungry in the event of a no-deal Brexit.” Gove recently championed a new food waste initiative backed by supermarkets, but that is likely to be knocked sideways if no-deal goes ahead.

Fresh produce, fruit and vegetables will be worst affected

Lang cites research that claims the U.K. already fails to meet public health advice on consuming fruit and vegetables at large, which will be compounded by a rise in food prices greater than 10 percent and the outsize reliance on European fruit and vegetable imports in supermarkets. Lang claims that 19 percent of fruit and vegetable imports come from Spain alone; in 2017, 30 percent of the U.K.’s food supply came from the European Union.

Supermarkets and the food industry are gravely concerned

The food and restaurant industry has been warning against the dangers of a no deal Brexit and the impact of Brexit on the U.K. food industry for almost a year now. Lang writes that while “organisations concerned about such vulnerabilities have been meeting with civil servants for some time,” the public is “largely in the dark,” pointing to the new government planning campaign for Brexit that lacks any information on the food supply scenario out of Lang, claims, fear of panic-buying.

The public will be the last to officially know how Brexit will affect the U.K.’s food supply

What this comes down to is simple: the risks, consequences, and concerns are out there, but the government is yet to address them in public. Lang puts this down to “default positions of centralisation and planning secrecy” and calls for “engaged food democracy”; as Boris Johnson boulders ahead without an apparent care for what a no deal Brexit scenario might do to the country’s food systems — instead waving around kippers and promising Mars bars — that looks further away than ever.