In Brief

Brexit: government to stockpile processed food in case of ‘no deal’

Ministers working on contingency plan for breakdown of £22bn EU food import industry

Brexit ministers are to build up reserves of processed food like chocolate, cheese and sausages in the event that talks with the EU collapse before a trading deal can be agreed.

The government’s plan to cope with a no-deal Brexit scenario, and ensuing chaos at ports, “includes emergency measures to keep Britain’s massive food and drinks industry afloat - including stockpiling ahead of exit day on 29 March next year”, says The Sun, which broke the story.

The EU is responsible for 97% of the £22 billion worth of processed food and drinks imported to the UK, a sector which employees around 400,000 British workers, the newspaper reports.

The plan is one of around 300 contingency measures which the government plans to start revealing in the coming weeks as the Department for Exiting the EU ramps up preparations for a no-deal Brexit under new chief Dominic Raab.

Other measures include stockpiling of medicines, 37 million of which are imported from the EU every month.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, has confirmed that “significant planning” is going on to ensure that patients do not go without treatment if drugs are held up by new border checks.

Ministers are also said to be looking at making more use of alternative import routes via Spain or the Netherlands to ease the expected pressure on Calais if the free movement of goods between the UK and Europe is suspended without alternative arrangements.

The UK’s complex network of food deals with the EU is the “forgotten bread and butter issues of Brexit”, Julian Baggini wrote in The Guardian last month.

Building Britain’s future food landscape will involve a host of economic, social and ethical choices about how and where we get our food, he writes, citing International Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s refusal to rule out importing chlorine-washed chicken from the US.

Bereft of (or liberated from) EU regulations, the UK can either “lead a race to the top by improving standards, or a race to the bottom in which we light a bonfire of regulations in a shortsighted attempt to undercut our competitors”, he writes. “It’s anyone’s guess which route we’ll take.”

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