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Health Series: Expert Comment

Government urged to release known planning assumptions for no-deal Brexit food impact

A leading academic calls on the Government to publish its planning assumptions for disruptions to food supply following a no-deal Brexit on 31st October, in the wake of the announcement that £138m has been allocated to inform the public about Brexit impacts.

by Chris Lines (Senior Communications Officer)

Writing in The Lancet, Professor Tim Lang of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, says that Government must reassure the public that its emergency planning takes full account of the impacts on the public health and in particular consumers on low incomes.

Professor Lang says that the Government’s planning assumptions of expected food disruptions are leaking out and should be made public. It is widely known to be planning for:

  • the flow of trucks to drop by a third or more within a day of Brexit;
  • half or more trucks no longer having a smooth transit across borders;
  • food price rises of at least 10% – more if the pound sterling (GBP) drops even further;
  • a drop-in food imports from the EU and other countries with EU trade deals of around a half;
  • strict imposition of new UK status as a ‘third country’ under EU and WTO rules, particularly by France, through whose ports the bulk of food imports arrive; and
  • disruption to last for three months, after which supplies might at best have returned to two thirds of pre-31st October levels.

Professor Lang says that these planning assumptions would mean:

  • massive disruption to the flow of fresh fruit and vegetables from the EU, where the UK sources the majority of these foods which are vital for health;
  • consumption patterns of people on low incomes would be hit especially hard; and
  • there would be no time for alternative sourcing.

Professor Lang says:

The Government and many analysts know what is not being shared with the public. Any public information campaign must not pull the wool over people’s eyes but treat them as adults. The danger of panic buying will grow if the £138m is naïve propaganda.

He calls on Government to release the full planning assumptions and says: “The public needs to know what methods Government has used to create these stark planning assumptions.”

The UK produces only 12% of the fruit and 55% of vegetables consumed here, and consumption levels are already known by Government to be woefully inadequate for health, says Professor Lang. “Disruption on this scale will have public health impacts, and will inevitably hit the poorest hardest. It cannot go unchallenged.”
ENDS

Further information

The article ‘No-deal food planning in UK Brexit’ by Professor Lang is published online in The Lancet.

Professor Tim Lang, PhD is Professor of Food Policy in the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London. He is a Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health and one of the UK’s best-known academics specialising in public policy on food matters.

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