A new briefing, published as part of the Food Research Collaboration’s Food Brexit Briefing series, claimed producers would be hit with mounting costs and paperwork and there would be a likely detrimental impact on consumers and public health.
Leaving the EU without a deal would lead to disruption in food supplies across Ireland, due to the introduction of border controls on foods entering Ireland from the UK, with the ROI legally obliged to impose controls on the Irish side of the border.
Commenting on the impact of the UK crashing out of the EU, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Northern Ireland director Gary McFarlane said: “Since the Good Friday Agreement, the food sectors on both sides of the border have quietly integrated.
Pulling out the rug from beneath businesses
“Farms and food businesses, from the giant to the micro, depend on being able to ship goods easily across the border. A no-deal Brexit pulls the rug from under them. Some could go out of business within days.”
Professor Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex also pointed out that the risk to UK food security inflicted by a no-deal Brexit would be felt worst in Ireland.
“A hard border will severely disrupt flows of raw materials and products, and lead to higher prices and reduced supplies on both sides of the border,” said Millstone. “It will imperil the financial viability of farmers and food businesses and lead to higher prices and poorer diets for consumers, especially in poor households.”
Small businesses unable to cope
The briefing highlighted the sheer number of certificates required by producers to ship goods across the Irish border every day – a process that neither small food businesses nor public organisations had the capacity or resources to cope with.
It also warned that price hikes and restricted supply were likely to impact fruit and vegetables the most, an area which Professor Tim Lang of the Centre for Food Policy said had been largely ignored.
“There has been absolutely zero attention [paid] to the impact a no-deal could have on imports of fruit and vegetables into Northern Ireland,” said Lang. “These are vitally important – disruption is a risk to public health and must be avoided.”