Tory minister does not rule out public having to stockpile spam ahead of Brexit

Spam on the shelves of supermarkets. Photograph: Ben Curtis/PA.

Spam on the shelves of supermarkets. Photograph: Ben Curtis/PA. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The government has accused Labour of 'exaggerating' the impact of a no-deal Brexit, but ministers would not rule out the public having to stockpile tinned food in preparation.

Food minister Davi Rutley claimed Labour's Rupa Huq was "exaggerating" the fallout by claiming the Tories were prioritising the wishes of "fundamentalist party members" over the possible return of scurvy on the streets.

Speaking in the Commons, Huq said: "In reality only just over half of the food we eat is made in Britain, with over a third coming from the EU.

"Why then when the Food and Drink Federation is predicting after a no-deal Brexit fresh fruit and veg would run out after two weeks, are the remaining contenders in the Tory leadership battle continuing to entertain this damaging prospect?

"Isn't scurvy back on our streets more important than the whims of fundamentalist party members' wishes?"

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Rutley said she had "ruined a perfectly reasonable question by exaggerating".

"We're preparing for every eventuality. A deal is the best outcome. We all have a responsibility to help deliver that. We're preparing for all outcomes."

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But when Tory MP Michael Fabricant asked if constituents need not to worry about stockpiling tins of food, the government's food spokesperson David Rutley laughed it off.

"Will you confirm that my constituents in Lichfield do not need to stock up with tins of Spam or apricots in syrup?" asked the MP.

Rutley replied: "We're not going to endorse any particular brand here, I have to say.

"But it is important to note we have a rich and diverse source of food and that will continue when we leave the EU."

Shadow environment minister Luke Pollard earlier raised concerns about protections for regional produce.

He said: "I want to press the minister on geographical indicators because they're vital in marketing for our goods and products made across the country.

"In the event of no-deal, something the forerunner in the Tory leadership contest [Boris Johnson] seems quite keen on, protections for Cornish pasties, Buxton Blue cheese, traditional Welsh perry, Cornish clotted cream and Whitstable oysters, to name but a few, will be at risk.

"So what steps is Defra taking to ensure that they are protected come Halloween this year so we've got protections for vital goods that our farmers and growers grow?"

Goodwill replied: "Certainly we'd wish in a no-deal situation to set up our own scheme and negotiate with our friends across the Channel to ensure we have some degree of co-operation.

"I must stress no-deal is not an option I'd want to support. We need to get a deal, we need to get it over the line."

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