One of the most annoying – annoying because it’s so transparently ridiculous a worry – nigglings about Brexit is this great question of where will Britain get its food from? For near everybody makes the assumption that we’ll not just continue to get it from where we currently get it. Or that we’ll not be able to. That because we’re not ruled by J-C Juncker no French farmer will ever be willing to sell us a rind of cheese.
Compete nonsense, of course it is.
Free from a customs union, where could post-Brexit Britain get its food?
Oooh, from farmers perhaps?
Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn are locked in Brexit negotiations that may lead to the UK remaining in a customs union and unable to strike-up trade deals with the rest of the world. A new Telegraph analysis has revealed the UK currently does very little trade with some of the world’s largest exporters of major food products, instead importing more than 70 per cent of its food stuffs from the EU in 2017.
Well, no, we don’t. More than 70% of our food imports quite possibly but we don’t import 70% of our food anyway, so we can’t be importing 70% of all food just from the EU.
What Brexit does do is allow us more choice about who we get our food from:
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.
The answer to where we’ll get our food from is the same as the answer to any other such question. We’ll get our food from whichever market participant is offering us a good deal today. Just as we would in a street market, just as we monitor – a tad only perhaps but still – supermarket prices, just as we do today when we choose between Estonian mozzarella and Italian pickled herring. The only thing that will change is that we’ll have more such choices. And, if we so choose, pay less in tax upon that food.