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Leaked government documents warn of no-deal Brexit food shortages, price rises and vulnerable people unable to access food

Sky News and The Guardian have published extracts from two leaked government documents that reveal shocking details of the possible impact of a no-deal Brexit.

Photo credit: Peter Wendt, Unsplash

Photo credit: Peter Wendt, Unsplash

Take action: Tell Boris Johnson not to let no-deal Brexit cause a food crisis for people most in need

The Guardian newspaper has revealed (1 August, 2019) that, “A document circulating Whitehall shows some of the government’s ‘reasonable worst-case scenarios’ have changed over the summer, including those related to the supply of food and medicines.” The document reportedly states that:

  • While officials are not anticipating an overall shortage of food, they believe there will be disruption to the food supply chain. This “will lead” to increases in prices of certain fresh produce, “which could impact on vulnerable groups”.
  • There is a risk that “panic buying will cause or exacerbate food supply disruption”.
  •  “The UK growing season will have come to an end and the Agri-food supply chain will be under increased pressure at this time of year due to preparations for Christmas, which is the busiest time of year for food retailers.”
  • There is the likelihood that “low-income groups may be disproportionately affected by price rises in utilities and services” and by “price rises...including food and fuel”.
  • There is also concern that food banks may struggle, with a record 1.6m emergency food parcels having been given out by the Trussell Trust food bank network last year – more than 500,000 of them to children [Note from Sustain: the total figure for emergency food parcels is more like 3 million given out last year, when independent food banks are included.]

Read The Guardian article here: “UK less able to cope with hard Brexit than it was in spring, say officials”

Meanwhile, Sky News reported (1 August 2019) on a leaked PowerPoint slide labelled “sensitive” setting out possible risks for the first day, first fortnight and first month of a no-deal Brexit, including “What this looks like on the ground”. Within the first fortnight, under a heading marked Border, the worst-case scenario reads “potential consumer panic and food shortages, even in areas which are not directly affected by the border. Possible friction at sea between UK/EU fishing vessels.”  By the end of a month, the document suggests that significant impacts on the economy “could result in demand for support through Kingfisher” (Kingfisher being described by others as government “bail-out funds”).

Read the Sky News article here: “UK faces potential 'consumer panic' and 'security gaps' under no-deal Brexit, says government document”

The Government has so far responded to say only that it does not comment on leaked documents.

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain, said:

“This is the first time we have seen official documents confirming that the Government is well aware that the 8.4 million people in this country who already experience food insecurity would be hardest hit by rising food prices and food disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit."

"It is absolutely unconscionable for our government knowingly to let no-deal Brexit result in more food insecurity for people on a low-income, homeless people, those fleeing from domestic violence, people experiencing physical or mental health problems and children from struggling families. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed a multi-billion-pound budget for no-deal Brexit preparations. Some of that must be ring-fenced to guarantee money for vulnerable people to be able to buy food, with a clear plan for making sure that the money and food reach those in need.”

These developments came the day after welfare secretary Amber Rudd and no-deal Brexit minister Michael Gove were challenged to guarantee food for vulnerable people in the event of a no-deal Brexit, in a letter from emergency food aid providers coordinated by Sustain.

They also came on the same day as the head of the Food and Drink Federation Ian Wright warned that no-deal Brexit would cause ‘mortal damage’ to British food and farming industries.

Published Friday 2 August 2019

Good Food Trade Campaign: Campaigning for good trade that benefits people and the planet at home and overseas.

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