As minister heads to Brussels
Food industry facing ‘serious policy failure’ over Brexit
Britain’s food industry is facing “unprecedented challenges” over regulation, prices and migrant labour because of a lack of clarity on what happens when the country leaves the EU, according to a new report.
The Westminster government is accused of “sleepwalking” into an insecure post-Brexit future which could lead to volatile food supplies and prices, because nothing has been decided on how to replace decades of EU regulation on the issue.
Food policy experts from three universities have published their research on the day David Davis, the Brexit secretary, begins a second round of talks with the EU.
Tim Lang, one of the report’s authors and a professor of food policy at City University said: “With the Brexit deadline in 20 months, this is a serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale.”
Prof Lang says the EU provides the UK with 31% of its food. “I’ve never known such disquiet” he said, with many farmers, manufacturers and retailers in the dark about how supply chains will be affected.
Prof Erik Millstone from Sussex University, addd: “We are surprised at the failure of the government to address a huge set of issues related to food and agriculture. They give the impression of sort of sleepwalking into this.”
The 88-page report warns that “the risk is that food security in the UK will be seriously undermined”, leading to dwindling supplies and erratic prices.
It adds: “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.”
Ahead of his meeting in Brussels today, Mr Davis said: “We made a good start last month, and this week we’ll be getting into the real substance.
“Protecting the rights of all our citizens is the priority for me going into this round and I’m clear that it’s something we must make real progress on.”
However, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is wanting greater guarantees for the three million EU citizens living in Britain.
Discussions will initially focus on three areas: citizens’ rights; the EU demand that Britain pays some €60 billion to cover ongoing EU budget commitments; and other loose ends, such as what happens to British goods in EU shops on Brexit Day.