Brexit could lead to less British food on the shelves, NFU warns

Brexit could push British produce off the shelves, the NFU has warned (PA)

Brexit could lead to less British food being available on shop shelves if the government slashes food safety standards after quitting the EU, the National Farmers’ Union has warned.

The farming body warned about the potentially dire consequences for British producers of allowing low-quality imports into the market.

Farmers are worried that ministers are prioritising trade liberalisation over maintaining the high standards of food production currently in place in Britain, the NFU’s Chief EU Exit and International Trade Adviser Gail Soutar told Yahoo.

‘UK farmers are up for the challenge of competing on an increasingly global stage, but only if that trade is done on a  level playing field,’ she said.

‘It is unacceptable to insist that UK farmers produce food to a certain environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards, incurring cost and bureaucracy, for the government to simply allow the importation of food produced to lower standards into the country.

Brexit could leave British farmers unable to compete with low-quality imports, the NFU warned. (Getty Images)

‘This would simply undercut British farmers and leave them unable to compete and facing an unacceptable race to the bottom.

‘Ultimately, the British public will lose out, with less British food in the shops, less control over the standards to which imported food is produced, and fewer British farms operating at the heart of our rural communities and treasured landscapes.’

The farming body also warned about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit on the availability of fresh produce amid reports that the government is being forced to stockpile food in preparation for a cliff-edge exit if an agreement is not reached by the October deadline.

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‘The reports relating to stockpiling are concerning. It’s simply not possible to stockpile perishable food and it seems that little or no contact has been made by the government with the UK’s food sector to discuss the feasibility of such an approach,‘ said Ms Soutar.

This week it emerged that a giant 13-mile ‘lorry park’ on the M20 could last for years after Brexit if a deal cannot be reached.

An assessment by Dover council found that ports were not currently equipped to deal with new checks on vehicles bringing supplies into the UK.

The report said: “A 13-mile stretch of the coast-bound section of the M20, between junction eight near Maidstone and junction nine near Ashford, will be earmarked to hold heavy goods vehicles, in what will effectively become a giant temporary lorry park holding around 2,000 lorries.

“It is likely a permanent solution will not be in place for many years if enacted through current planning processes and procedures.”