Cornish pasties and Melton Mowbray pies put at risk by Brexit

PUBLISHED: 16:27 05 February 2019

A Cornish pasty. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A Cornish pasty. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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Cheap imitations of iconic British foods like Cornish pasties and Melton Mowbray pies could flood supermarket shelves as a result of Brexit, it has been warned.

Knock-offs of protected names like Caerphilly cheese, Arbroath smokies and Cumberland sausage could also be widely produced as the government hands the policing of protected brands to cash-strapped local councils when Britain leaves the EU.

Under the current system, food and drink manufacturers in the EU, including those in the UK, can protect their product names under regulations laid down by the bloc, ensuring countries comply with the World Trade Organization’s copyright rules.

It ensures UK ‘geographical indication’ products – which number 86 in total, including 76 agricultural and food products, five wines and five spirits – are protected from imitators.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) today said that local council trading standards bodies will be responsible for enforcement of new protection schemes after Brexit.

But cash for the service, which protects consumers from unfairness and illegal practices, has fallen from £213m in 2009 to £105m in 2018, with the number of enforcement officers slashed by 56%.

Last year in London alone, 1,350 people reported a business or person to their council’s trading standards department. But this led to just 44 visits and 363 warning letters being sent.

If a no-deal Brexit happens, the government has said its own scheme would “broadly mirror” the existing EU system.

But the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has said that the greater than 50% cut in trading standards in under a decade throws doubt on the UK’s ability to carry out any meaningful checks on businesses after Brexit.

Head of Policy at CTSI Craig McClue said: “We have brought forward concerns from extensive research by leaders across the breadth of trading standards activities.

“The government has set an ambition of no less protection for consumers and high standards of regulation when we leave the EU. This report demonstrates our concerns about such ambitions being realised.

“Consumers and businesses cannot afford to lose out as we leave the European Union, and CTSI is ready to assist the government to make sure we are all protected.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, a supporter of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: “The government are creating a new scheme but then are asking local government, already cut to the bone to police it.

“This plan has a massive Brexit black hole in it and [environment secretary] Michael Gove just doesn’t care. He is passing the buck to hard-pressed councils.

“Post-Brexit shopping aisles could be flooded with cheap imitation foods pushing out much-loved classics like pork pies and clotted cream. This is not what people voted for.

“The government have been shown to have done the bare minimum here and that is scandalous.”

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