Government bodies will be no more likely to buy British food after Brexit than they were before, according to a leading trade expert.
Ros Kellaway, head of the EU Competition and Regulatory Group, told a Policy Forum for Wales event in Cardiff this week she did not expect public procurement rules to be changed after the UK leaves the EU.
At the moment, EU policy prevents public bodies from favouring British food in procurement contracts because all suppliers in the single market must be treated equally.
It was hoped the vote to leave the EU would lead to a change in the rules – something farming groups have pushed for and which has been seen as a relatively easy win.
But Ms Kellaway claimed this would not be likely to happen.
“I would bet a large sum of money the rules will not change, because if we change those rules we can say goodbye to access to the single market”, she said.
“Indeed, the Government is trumpeting the fact that under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) auspices they are hoping to sign something called the Agreement on Government Procurement as an independent member of the WTO, which would give access to £1.3 trillion worth of Government contracts.
“I see little likelihood that the substance of the current rules will change, and even if we had a hard Brexit, there are the equivalent of state aid rules at the WTO.”
Earlier this year at Conservative Party Conference, Defra Secretary Michael Gove backed a change to public procurement policies.
He said at the time: “There is a direct responsibility on Government to ensure as we leave the European Union there are procurement rules to ensure wherever possible British institutions are buying British food.”