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Memo To The Guardian – We Don’t Have A National Food Service

This specific worry seems to have passed through a wormhole from some alternative universe in which the near-Stalinists of 1945 Labour instituted a National Food Service. It being an important point for us to note that it isn’t actually the government which feeds us:

As Brexit looms, stockpiling food seems the only sensible response
Ian Jack
I’m not spreading fear and alarm. A government as inept as this one cannot be trusted to feed us.

It’s not the stockpiling – having a couple of day’s worth of food in the cupboard seems a sensible enough part of any housekeeping duty – it’s that last sentence. Since when did the government feed us anyway? Even in those dire days of WWII it never actually was the state which dealt with food now, was it? We’ve not had ration shops, we’ve – thankfully because we’d starve if we did – never had government shops and all that. Further, everywhere that has tried it has failed miserably. I do indeed speak as someone who saw the tail end of the Russian/Soviet system where one could have a pocket full of money (and I did by local standards, an average monthly income as my per diem) and still find it damn near impossible to find food to buy.

It’s not and never has been government which feeds us.

The article itself also suffers from a basic logical mistake:

Survival – having enough to eat – is obviously the primary reason, but a secondary one is that a no-deal Brexit will mean a sharp rise in the price of items that have Europe as their main or only source. The imposition of tariffs and the likely collapse of sterling will mean that olive oil and wine will never again be as cheap. A middle-class way of life that began in the 1960s may be coming to an end.

We don’t have to impose tariffs upon the things that we import. We’d also be mad to do so:

To insist, meanwhile, that we must raise tariffs on the imports we desire is to misunderstand the WTO system. As a source in Geneva explains, Britain is a WTO member in its own right and will still be so even after Brexit happens. This means that we have promised not to charge higher than the allowable ceilings in tariffs upon imports from other WTO members. The Most Favoured Nation clause also states that whatever we do decide to charge ourselves, we must apply the same rate to the same products from all different WTO countries.

But not charging higher than the allowable ceilings does not commit us to charging anything at all. We can apply a 0 per cent rate (yes, I checked) if we so wish.

That is, being outside the EU means we do not have to charge the EU external tariff rates upon anything and can insist that we pay ourselves nothing on all sources of food from everywhere.

Economists are reasonably certain this is going to lead to lower food prices in Britain.

We have all long known that the CAP makes food more expensive in Europe. Being outside the CAP will therefore make food cheaper. And no one is going to insist that we do something as blitheringly idiotic as raise import tariffs to prevent this from happening, most certainly not the WTO, whatever Nick Clegg might think.

There is also that worry that Dover will become jammed and the trucks just won’t get through. The answer to which is exactly what has already been said by one Minister or another. If we get a jam because of customs checks then we’ll stop doing the customs checks. Pretty simple really. For it is the EU that insists upon those checks, not us. And we’ll not be in the EU, recall?

Do note that the worry – the whine – is about food, that being all about imports. Imports being the thing we control the rules and taxes about…..that rather being the point.

There simply isn’t going to be a food crisis. Partly because we’re not going to be so damn stupid as to have one and further, because we are blessedly free of a National Food Service and the incompetence of government to feed us.

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Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
5 years ago

The Giradanu finds it impossible to believe that anything can happen without an army of civil servants to control it.

5 years ago
Reply to  Quentin Vole

Yes, their current line is a caricature of past claims propping up the NHS down to even grade schools: If bureaucrats do not “ensure” a supply of something, people will not be able to provide for themselves and will choose to neglect their kids. People will not view education as important the way “we” do unless we set the price at zero.

5 years ago

The pathetic arguments being trotted out in defence of remaining in the EU only serve to convince that there aren’t any solid ones.

5 years ago

‘… olive oil and wine will never again be as cheap.’

So, grapes and olives only grow on the EU?

Olive oil is produced in Turkey, Syria, Morocco and Tunisia. wine is produced in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa.

But EU tariffs, quotas and other non-tariffs preventbus getting all we want from these countries.

And… why don’t imports/exports from/to non-EU Countries block the ports?

5 years ago

Set zero tariffs on food imports from everywhere.
Have two queues, one for Food, one for Non-food just as we currently have one for EU, one for non-EU. Random checks to catch cheats (and anyone caught has to sit in police cells pending trial because he/she/they, as a foreign lorry-driver is obviously a flight risk so bail is not an option).
Result quicker movement of food imports.

Esteban DeGolf
Esteban DeGolf
5 years ago

I recall a story from the days when the Soviet Union was trying to implement a little bit of freedom and markets (“Glasnost” I believe). They had a meeting with government officials in the UK or US and kept asking how the government made sure that the country produced enough food. They just could not believe that the government wasn’t managing the food supply, no matter how many times this was explained. Food is important, therefore the Curajus State must be in charge of it, no?

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