Brexit a challenge to UK's food security – academics
“The UK food system faces real challenges on food security,” write three British academics in A Food Brexit: time to get real, a paper published this Monday and widely covered by national media in the UK. “This verdict applies, whether there is a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit,” according to Tim Lang, professor of food policy at the City University of London; Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex; and Terry Marsden, professor of environmental policy and planning at Cardiff University.
From CAP to free trade, migration and the enforcement of food safety standards, the authors argue that the UK has become dependent on the EU for its food in a way that “will be impossible to cut out or back by March 2019 without enormous consequences”.
The paper shows that the Republic of Ireland is the UK’s second-largest source of food, with imports worth £4bn annually. It cites Irish government concerns regarding the harmful impact of a potential hard border, whether on land with Northern Ireland or in the Irish sea. “The prospect of food rotting in transit waiting at borders is not impossible,” the authors wrote.
They point out that one third of the British agricultural workforce consists of migrant workers.
With a potential trade deal between the UK and the US mooted as an option to source cheap food, the academics warns that “US food safety standards are, in several important respects far below those that now apply in the UK and EU. Four examples serve to illustrate this concern: beef hormones, bovine somatotropin (BST) used in milk production, genetic modification (GM) of crops, and the use of chlorinated disinfectants to reduce bacterial contamination of poultry carcasses”.
The authors of the study also note that there is plan for the UK’s agricultural policy past the Conservative Party’s election manifesto committing to maintain existing farm payments until 2022.