FDF chief executive Ian Wright said concerns over a no-deal Brexit were not scaremongering, adding that such an outcome would be “scary” for the industry.
Wright was responding to the speech made yesterday (1 October) by Dominic Raab, secretary of state for exiting the EU, at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
Raab told conference delegates that when it came to a no-deal, there had been some “lurid predictions from the prophets of doom”.
“They claim planes will be grounded, that ports will be blocked. Let’s have some common sense here – why on earth would any of these things happen?” he added.
‘Potential short-term disruption’
While conceding there were “risks and potential short-term disruption”, Raab added that the Government would “deal with any problems that might arise in the event of no-deal in a calm and sensible manner”.
Although the UK doesn’t formally leave the EU until 29 March 2019, the European Council session on December 13–14 is believed to be the last practical opportunity for a divorce deal to be signed.
Wright said the “lurid predictions” were from Raab’s own colleagues in the Department for Exiting the European Union.
“Their technical notices lay bare just how severe blockages at the ports would be for food coming in and out of our country,” he added. “Indeed, the Government takes this so seriously that just last week it appointed a food supplies minister. The last person to occupy such a position oversaw the end of rationing in 1954.”
Last week, the Government appointed David Rutley MP to oversee the protection of food supplies, as part of the UK’s overall food and drink industrial strategy.
Stockpiling of food
Wright also pointed out that it was Raab himself who “just two months ago” raised the possibility of stockpiling food and calling in the squaddies to help.
He said: “We face grisly consequences if we do not secure a deal with the EU – it is not scaremongering, it is scary. We are already seeing food and drink prices rise in response to the threat of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit as businesses begin to stockpile and hedge currency risk.
“The Government must act quickly if it is to protect the interest of shoppers and consumers, who have come to expect year-round availability of high-quality food and drink at all price points.”
The Government last week published its latest set of technical notices in readiness for a no-deal Brexit.
National Farmers Union president Minette Batters said the notices confirmed that a no-deal scenario would be “catastrophic for British agriculture”.