Furious farmers have hit back at a free-market think tank boss who has called for the abolition of all food tariffs after Brexit.
Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, made the remarks on the BBC Today Programme this morning (February 6).
Speaking about how to respond to a no-deal Brexit, Mr Lesh suggested the Government should put Britain’s 65 million consumers and their rights to ‘cheaper, better products’ ahead of the needs of producers.
“Tariffs are simply a tax on consumers to benefit a very small number of producers,” he said.
“They are unfair, they make producers inefficient, they are economically extremely dangerous and have no place in a modern economy.
“A country should do what it is best at doing, and in the UK’s case, to a large extent that probably is not agriculture or manufacturing, it is the service industry.
“Ultimately that means higher-paying, better jobs for Brits in modern technology industries, or in FinTech.”
Mr Lesh has previously tweeted that ‘cheap food is a good thing’, and ‘abolishing all food tariffs is the first step’ to providing low-cost fruit and vegetables.
Cheap 👏 food 👏 is 👏 a 👏 good 👏 thing 👏.— Matthew Lesh (@matthewlesh)
“Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production.” - Adam Smith. t.co/oM3lHS1a2E
Abolishing all food tariffs is the first step!— Matthew Lesh (@matthewlesh)
Abolishing all food tariffs is the first step!— Matthew Lesh (@matthewlesh) February 3, 2019
His call follows a demand from Number 10 for Defra to model the impact of unilaterally dropping all tariffs after Brexit.
But mixed farmer Will Case, from Cumbria, told Farmers Guardian Mr Lesh’s comments were ‘offensive’, especially in light of the fact that the US is now spending more on farm subsidy than it has in 13 years.
“He is a free market jihadi,” Mr Case said.
“Dropping all tariffs is obviously going to screw agriculture and it is not what people voted for. People voted in a patriotic way.
“It is a very small minority of people who want this burn-it-all-down and start again approach where we destroy manufacturing and disregard the British countryside.
“Every other developed country in the world, apart from New Zealand and to a lesser extent Australia, supports agriculture in some way.
“Our politicians seem to think they can not pay our farmers anything, let them compete on the world market and see the strongest survive, but they also want the nice countryside, high welfare, top environmental standards and brilliant wildlife.
“They have not thought about it enough.”
He seemed to have missed that consumers also need Jobs to be able to earn money, to spend on goods. A complete disconnect in pursuit of pure capitalism.— Sarah Bell (@Sarahbellagri)
He seemed to have missed that consumers also need Jobs to be able to earn money, to spend on goods. A complete disconnect in pursuit of pure capitalism.— Sarah Bell (@Sarahbellagri) February 6, 2019
UK shoppers currently pay less for food than those in any other country apart from the US and Singapore, with an average spend of just 8 per cent of total household outgoings.
This makes food eaten in the UK the cheapest in Western Europe – 8 per cent less than the EU average.