The prime minister is being urged to come clean on the ‘potentially disastrous’ risks a no-deal Brexit poses to the UK’s food supply.
Former prime minster Gordon Brown joined the GMB union, campaign group Hope Not Hate and food charity Sustain, to warn Boris Johnson that crashing out of the EU threatened food supplies.
A joint letter demands answers to questions about government preparations to cope with food shortages and price rises – and the subsequent effects on families, public services and workers in the food industry.
The letter comes as Gordon Brown prepares to visit Merseyside community co-operative Homebaked to highlight the impact of a no-deal Brexit on working families.
Michael Gove, the cabinet minister charged with no-deal preparations, admitted some food prices could go up in a no-deal scenario.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Gove said: “Everyone will have the food they need.”Asked if food prices would increase, he said: “I think that there are a number of economic factors in play. Some prices may go up. Other prices will come down.”
Brown said: “A no-deal Brexit threatens the UK’s food supply chain. Imports of almost a third of our food could be subject to disruption.
“Uncertainty, restricted supplies and a weakened pound could raise prices. This would be a catastrophe for the food industry but also for family budgets, hospitals and those driven to food banks due to the decimation of our social security system over the last decade.
“In the North West, 83,000 three-day emergency food parcels were given to children by the Trussell Trust in 2018/19. We cannot put the future of the most vulnerable people in our country at risk as prime minister Johnson and his advisers stand to lose nothing.”
Gove had also said “there will be no shortages of fresh food” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
But the trade body for UK retailers said this was “categorically untrue” that such supplies would be unaffected in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
Responding to Gove’s claim, a spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said it is “impossible to mitigate it fully as neither retailers nor consumers can stockpile fresh foods”.
Tim Roache, GMB general secretary said: “No-deal is no joke – it makes no sense for working people.
“The risks are writ large when it comes to the food we eat. With all the talk about coups and leave promises written on the side of buses, the real detail often gets missed. It’s time for Boris Johnson to come clean.
“With no deal, we’re likely to see a huge impact on everything from increased cost of the family shop and less choice on supermarket shelves, through to job losses in food production and reduced nutrition in school and hospital meals.
“The government are walking us to a cliff edge and seem more interested in ideological Tory Party politicking than making sure we have a stable food supply.”
Gove had also said “there will be no shortages of fresh food” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal..