Exiting the EU with no Brexit deal would not leave people in the UK short of food, despite other member states providing about a third of what they eat, according to Farming Minister George Eustice.
He made the remarks in answer to a parliamentary question from MP Tom Brake, who asked what assessment Defra had made of the food security implications of leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation rules – the ‘no deal’ option – remaining in the single market and customs union, or any other trade scenario.
Without sharing Defra’s calculations on the matter, the Minister said the UK’s food supply was ‘highly resilient’ and industry could ‘respond quickly’ to ensure ongoing provision.
“None of the potential scenarios regarding our trading relationship with the EU is likely to have a significant impact on food security”, he added.
The comments came just weeks after a University of Sussex report warned Brexit could leave the UK short of food, with a possible return to volatility in supply and prices not seen since the 1930s.
Speaking after the release of the paper, one of its authors, Professor Tim Lang, claimed the food system would be under threat even with a ‘soft’ Brexit, where the UK remained inside the single market or customs union.
“UK food security and sustainability are now at stake”, he said.
“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 this will be simple is ill-informed.”
Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman told Farmers Guardian Mr Eustice’s answer was ‘yet another example of the Government’s complacency and lack of strategy in this area.’
“We know the Secretary of State is notoriously dismissive of expert advice, but he must ensure his department do not ignore the writing on the wall and agree to meet the authors of the report and representatives from the food and farming sectors to urgently discuss the food crisis before us”, she added.