Leaving the EU: Food Shortages

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

What steps he has taken to help prevent food shortages in the event that the UK leaves the EU without an agreement.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

The Government have been undertaking extensive work to prepare for a no-deal scenario for the past two years, to ensure that trade continues to operate smoothly from the day we leave. We have long-established relationships with industry, and we are working closely with key stakeholders to prepare for all scenarios. The UK has a high level of food security, built on diverse sources, and this will continue to be the case when we leave the EU.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

In reality, only just over half of the food we eat is made in Britain, with more than a third coming from the EU. Given that the Food and Drink Federation is predicting that after a no-deal Brexit fresh fruit and veg would run out after two weeks, why are the remaining contenders in the Tory leadership battle continuing to entertain this damaging prospect? Does he not agree that scurvy back on our streets is more important than the whims of fundamentalist party members’ wishes?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

The hon. Lady has ruined a perfectly reasonable question by exaggerating. Of course we are preparing for every eventuality. As we have said already in these questions, a deal is the best outcome, and we all have a responsibility to help deliver that. We are preparing for all outcomes.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

So will my hon. Friend confirm that my constituents do not need to stock up with tins of Spam or apricots in syrup?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

We are not going to endorse any particular brand, but it is important to note that we have a rich and diverse source of food, and that will continue when we leave the EU.

Photo of John McNally John McNally Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment)

Can the Secretary of State reassure my local businesses, which supply millions of people across the UK with high-quality food products, that enough refrigeration units will be in place to cope with the predicted delays at UK ports after our exit from the EU?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

The hon. Gentleman can be assured that I have regular meetings—each week—with the main stakeholders in the food industry to prepare for no deal. We are looking at all eventualities. Primarily, we are looking at how we can ensure the flow of trade; that is our vital priority.