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Brexit poses ‘serious risks’ to UK food security

Brexit represents a major risk to UK food security through disruption to sources, prices and quality, a new report has claimed.

Produced by leading food policy specialists from three universities, the report accused the government of having no vision for UK food and agriculture post-Brexit and failing to inform the public about the “enormous” implications leaving the EU would have on their food.

It noted that the UK’s home production has been steadily declining with as little as 54% of food currently produced domestically, while 31% is imported from the EU. At a time when the UK food system ought to be improving its resilience, the authors claimed ministers were “like the rabbit caught in the headlights – with no goals, no leadership, and eviscerated key ministries”.

The report highlighted 16 key issues that ministers need to address as a matter of urgency including the need for new legislation to replace 4,000 pieces of EU law relating to food; and the dependency of the UK food system on migrant labour.

It also warned of further increases in food prices and a risk of falling quality standards throughout supply chains should the UK become more reliant on sourcing food from countries where standards are weaker than those in the EU.

Among the report’s recommendations are for the government to set new clear targets for UK food security, which go beyond quantity of supply by addressing ecosystems and social systems resilience; and the creation of a new National Commission on Food and Agricultural Policy.

“The Government has provided next to no details on agriculture and fisheries, and there has been total silence on the rest of the food chain where most employment, value adding and consumer choice are made,” said Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, who co-authored the report.

“With the Brexit deadline in 20 months, this is a serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale,” Lang added.