I try and avoid politics in my blog. Generally they’re irrelevant to allotmenting and gardening and anything I say is bound to offend someone. But I’m going to break my golden rule a bit now.
After yesterday’s rejection of the government’s plan for BREXIT by Parliament it seems likely now that the UK will leave the EU without an agreement. Of course things may change by tomorrow and we might even be staying in the EU after all or voting in another referendum.
World Trade Organisation Tariffs
Now, as I understand it, if we leave the EU without an agreement trade between us will revert to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. If I’ve got it right, our trade with other countries outside the EU will also go onto these rules as all our trade currently is governed by agreements made with the EU.
So, if we import something from or export to Canada say, until we agree a new trade treaty with Canada, that trade will be under these WTO rules. The same goes for every country and trading block in the world.
Administration of BREXIT
Now this is going to mean a mammoth amount of paperwork for Customs which is part of HMRC. All those lorries that arrive into the country – and leave the country for Europe – with no paperwork are going to need new documents. My experience with HMRC over my tax doesn’t give me much faith that they can handle this smoothly, or even a drinks party in a brewery for that matter.
Even the government doesn’t believe this change can go smoothly. Neither does the European Union Committee of Parliament report (PDF) on Brexit: food prices and availability. Hence the practice for delays at Dover. So likely deliveries across the channel will be slower for a while at best.
Food Price Increases
Now anything we import from or export to Europe is currently free of tariffs. Suddenly our food imports, and this country imports roughly half of our food, will cost 22% more at the port. This doesn’t mean 22% price increase on the shop shelf, I’d guess more like a 7% increase, but still a significant increase. Especially to the poorest in society.
Even the food we produce in the UK will be affected. One immediate problem I can see is that animal feed is imported. That’s meat, eggs and dairy set to go up.
The delays could be more significant to our food supply. Tesco has announced it’s stockpiling food and even offering to help its suppliers by giving them storage space. When big companies are spending money on something, they must consider it a serious risk.
Perishable Food Problem
Some things don’t store for long though. A lettuce harvested today in Spain may well be on the shop shelf tomorrow or the day after and only have a shelf-life of a few days after that. We’ve seen the panic on the streets (well in the Guardian anyway) when the middle classes couldn’t buy courgettes in January 2017 due to unseasonal cold weather in Spain. Lord knows how they’ll react to no lettuces or tomatoes!
Get Sowing Now!
The fact is that with food we’ve become used to buying what we want, when we want and cheaply too. In a few months this could change. In some ways I don’t think this is such a bad thing. Let’s get back to eating home-grown seasonal fresh foods.
This post is making no comment on the UK leaving the EU. I’m just discussing a short term problem that seems likely to happen. I’m not getting into politics and have removed comments from this post as people just seem to see the title and launch into rants about BREXIT