Exiting the EU will damage food security and could lead to price rises, a major report by food policy specialists has warned.
The report, published by SPRU, the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, concludes that leaving the EU poses serious risks to consumer interests, public health, businesses and workers in the food sector – particularly at a time when the UK food system is already vulnerable, with self-sufficiency in decline.
Its authors claim there is no government vision for UK food or agriculture, yet prices, quality, supply and the environment will all be adversely affected – even by a ‘soft’ Brexit. They warn that British consumers have not been informed about the “enormous” implications for their food, a third of which comes from within the EU.
The 88-page report, by food policy specialists Professor Erik Millstone (University of Sussex) and Professor Terry Marsden (Cardiff University), and Professor Tim Lang (City University London), is the first major review of the ways in which leaving the EU will impact on UK food and farming.
Lang said: “UK food security and sustainability are now at stake. A food system which has an estimated three to five days of stocks cannot just walk away from the EU, which provides us with 31 per cent of our food. Anyone who thinks that this will be simple is ill-informed.”
The report examines available industry and government data, policies and literature on a wide range of issues including production, farming, employment, quality, safety standards and the environment.
It highlights 16 key issues that must be addressed by the government in its negotiations with the EU, including farm subsidies, labour supply, tariffs, food prices and quality standards.
Millstone said: “In the EU, UK consumers and public health have benefited from EU-wide safety standards, without which there will be a risk of the UK having less safe and nutritious products.”
Millstone, Lang and Marsden said their report is a wake-up call to the public and a government that has little experience of food negotiations and has failed to warn consumers of the disruptions ahead.
Their recommendations include publishing a policy commitment to a low-impact, health-oriented UK food system; creating a new statutory framework for UK food; committing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris climate agreement in any new food framework; and establishing a new ‘National Commission on Food and Agriculture’ to provide oversight and review, and to be a source of advice trusted by the British public.