Brexit risks hurting food security and standards in the U.K. and the government needs to do more to alleviate concerns about the food and farming industries’ future, according to a study led by researchers at three U.K. universities.
Among the risks are reduced supplies, more volatile prices and lower food-safety standards if Britain fails to adopt European Union safety rules, according to a report by academics including Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London. Whether there’s a hard or soft Brexit, it will potentially have “enormous” implications for food, they said.
“To leave the EU would sever the U.K. from many bodies which underpin food, from scientific advisory bodies to regulators, from research programs to subsidies to regions,” they wrote in the report. “What is going to replace these? There is silence” from the government, they said.
Other key issues that the government needs to focus on include replacing thousands of pieces of EU rules related to food, farmer subsidies and access to overseas labor, something many farms rely on. Food has accounted for about 40 percent of EU legislation in the past 50 years and the U.K. imports almost a third of its food from the EU, the report showed.
There are already signs that U.K. fruit and vegetable growers are finding it hard to attract enough seasonal overseas workers that they’re reliant on. Technology won’t be able to replace migrant workers employed in the agriculture and food industries, according to the report, which was also written by Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex and Terry Marsden of Cardiff University.
“U.K. food manufacturing is our largest manufacturing sector, but one-third of its workforce is migrant,” the researchers said. “U.K. horticulture has massive dependency on migrants to pick ‘British’ food U.K. consumers say they want.”