Brexit: food prices and availability

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Series Details (2017-19)HL129
Publication Date 10/05/2018
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The United Kingdom: House of Lords: Select Committee on the European Union: EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee published a report Brexit: food prices and availability on the 10 May 2018. This investigated the potential impacts of Brexit on the price and availability of food for UK consumers.

Key findings

30% of food eaten in the UK came from the EU, and another 11% from non-EU countries under the terms of trade deals negotiated by the EU. Whilst the UK Government hoped to negotiate a trade agreement to allow tariff-free and ‘frictionless’ imports of food to continue, this was by no means a guaranteed outcome.

The Committee found that even in the ‘best case scenario’, with no tariffs and few customs barriers, international rules would oblige the UK to conduct more customs and borders checks than was currently the case. If an agreement cannot be negotiated by the time the UK left the EU the increase in tariffs could lead to significant price rises for consumers, whilst the additional customs workload could choke the UK’s ports and airports and significantly disrupt food deliveries.

The Committee found that EU food imports could not easily be replaced by either producing more in the UK or importing more from non-EU countries. UK self-sufficiency had been declining for the past 30 years, and could not quickly be reversed, whilst even Food Minister George Eustice MP downplayed the scale of new post-Brexit trade deals when he appeared before the Committee.

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Related Links
ESO: In Focus: Brexit - The United Kingdom and the European Union
United Kingdom: House of Commons: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee: 7th Report (2017-19) HC381: The impact of Brexit on the processed food and drink sector
Senior European Experts: The Experts' Briefing, March 2018: British Agricultural Policy after Brexit
University of Sussex: Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), 2017: A Food Brexit: time to get real. A Brexit Briefing
BBC News, 10.05.18: Brexit: Warning of rising food bills and disruption to supplies
The Guardian, 10.05.18: Failure to seal EU free trade deal will mean higher UK food prices, say peers
UK: Parliament: Parliamentary Business: Committees: News, 10.05.18: Brexit: food prices and availability report published by Committee
The Conversation, 24.10.18: Brexit diet could lead to 5,600 deaths a year as fresh fruit and veg prices shoot up
Oxford Martin School Working Paper, October 2018: The impacts of Brexit on agricultural trade, food consumption, and diet - related mortality in the UK, by Marco Springmann and Florian Freund
Institute for Fiscal Studies: Observation, July 2017: How might Brexit affect food prices?
BBC News, 26.07.18: No deal Brexit would push up fresh food prices, says ex-Waitrose boss

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