London, July 17 (IANS) With an estimated food stock available only for three to five days, Britain cannot just walk away from the European Union (EU) which provides it with 31 per cent of food, food policy specialists have warned.
According to the experts, a “Food Brexit” is of unprecedented importance and is happening at a time when the UK food system is already vulnerable, with self-sufficiency also in decline.
Thus, leaving the EU is likely to pose serious risks to the UK’s food and farming sector which may affect consumer interests, public health, businesses and workers unless the issues are addressed timely.
“UK food security and sustainability are now at stake. A food system which has an estimated three to five days of stocks cannot just walk away from the EU, which provides us with 31 per cent of our food. Anyone who thinks that this will be simple is ill-informed,” said Tim Lang, Professor at the University of London.
Brexit is the popular term for the UK’s exit from the EU. In a referendum on June 23 last year, 52 per cent people voted to leave the 27-nation bloc.
Since there is no government vision for UK food or agriculture, the prices, quality, supply and the environment will all be adversely affected even with a “soft” Brexit, the report said.
Further, experts rued that British consumers have not been informed about the “enormous” implications for their food, a third of which comes from within the EU.
“The government has provided next to no details on agriculture and fisheries, and there has been total silence on the rest of the food chain where most employment, value adding and consumer choice are made. With the Brexit deadline in 20 months, this is a serious policy failure on an unprecedented scale,” Lang added.
The report, published by the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, draws on more than 200 sources, including many interviews with senior figures across the food chain, as well as official, industry and scientific documents and statistics.
It also highlights 16 key issues, relating to food and agriculture, that must be addressed by the Government in its negotiations with the EU.
It is a wake-up call to the public and a government that has little experience of food negotiations and has failed to warn consumers of the disruptions ahead, the researchers stated.