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brexit impact

Food shortages could appear in UK within two weeks of Brexit no-deal, experts warn

Industry professionals spoke before the UK Parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee today.

FOOD SHORTAGES COULD begin to appear in the UK within two weeks of a no-deal Brexit, a food industry representative has warned. 

Speaking before the UK Parliament’s Exiting the European Union Committee today, the Food and Drink Federation’s chief operating officer Tim Rycroft said that “because of the short shelf life, stockpiling has a limited ability to mitigate the impact” of food shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit. 

In April, the UK and EU agreed a flexible Brexit extension until 31 October following marathon talks in Brussels. If an agreement is not met by then, the UK will leave the EU with no deal. 

“Probably immediately after a no deal exit you probably wouldn’t see very much difference in the first two weeks,” Rycroft said. 

After that, I think you would probably start to see some shortages particularly around things like fresh fruit and vegetables. 
So, fresh fruit and vegetables, but also things like chicken products, where we produce a lot of chickens in this country but they are sent to the EU for processing and then reimported. 

Rycroft added that other more “obscure” items would also face shortages in the event of a no-deal. 

“We don’t have enough milk powder processing capability in this country and that goes into a lot of products like confectionary and infant formula,” Rycroft said. 

“We don’t grow enough high protein wheat in this country, we tend to rely on a lot of imported wheat for bread.”

He told the committee that such food shortages “might go on for several weeks and potentially months” following a no-deal exit from the EU. 

tim The Food and Drink Federation's chief operating officer Tim Rycroft speaking before today's committee Parliament TV Parliament TV

Meanwhile, as reported by The Guardian, Seamus Nevin, the chief economist with Make UK, warned the committee that a no-deal Brexit will be “commercial suicide”. 

“There is a direct link between politicians talking up the prospect of no deal and British firms losing customers overseas and British people losing jobs,” Nevin said.

A no-deal Brexit would be nothing short of commercial suicide.

Nevin continued to tell the committee that the UK could face the prospect of businesses relocating in the event trading barriers. 

“I think it’s a very clear warning that if you create trade barriers between yourselves and your biggest market you’re going to encourage businesses to relocate. We have seen that already,” Nevin said.

“Thousands of jobs have already been lost with businesses downsizing or completely shutting down in the UK,” he said, outlining that he is aware of one company that will do just that, which “will result in several thousand job losses for one individual firm”. 

‘A yellow-box junction’

The committee took place as prominent Brexiteer Boris Johnson today launched his campaign bid to become the leader of the Tory party and the next British Prime Minister.

In his speech, Johnson said that although he wouldn’t delay Brexit past October and that he wouldn’t rule out a no-deal Brexit – that he didn’t want to leave the EU without a deal.

“Parties have entered a yellow-box junction where they cannot move forward or back.

“After three years, and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31st,” he said, sparking applause from the audience.

Tory leadership race Boris Johnson during the launch of his campaign Stefan Rousseau Stefan Rousseau

“I don’t think we will end up with any such thing,” adding that it was “astonishing” that British negotiators had ruled it out up to now.

They don’t want a no-deal any more than I do.

“Delay means defeat, delay means Corbyn,” he added. “Kick the can – and we kick the bucket!”

When asked if he was inconsistent on whether he wanted a no-deal Brexit or not, Johnson answered: “If we make the preparations now, that we are able to make that exit, if we have to which of course would be a last resort. The best way to avoid it is to prepare for it.

“The British people for so many years have been told that they are incapable, but they will rise to it.”

Over the coming weeks, Conservative MPs will hold a series of secret ballots to whittle down the field to a final pair in the race for the new party leader, who will be put to around 160,000 party members.

The first round of voting takes place on Thursday and candidates must receive the support of 17 MPs or be eliminated.

In the second vote scheduled for 18 June, candidates must receive the support of 33 MPs to proceed.

With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha 

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