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Politics: Impact of Brexit on food prices will continue to cause damage

By Kyle Ritchie

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No one can have failed to notice the steep rises in food prices over the last few years.

While energy prices, the war in Ukraine, and the Covid pandemic have all played their part in pushing up the cost of living, there’s been an audible silence around one of the core drivers of food price inflation, namely Brexit.

The political figures who supported Brexit don’t want to own up to the damage it has caused to our economy and the trade barriers it has created or exacerbated.

MP Richard Thomson said Brexit has had an impact on food prices.
MP Richard Thomson said Brexit has had an impact on food prices.

Brexit has made it more difficult – and expensive – for our farmers to export their produce, and for EU producers to import theirs.

As a consequence, the foods we import from Europe – many of the fruit and vegetables, grains, dairy products, and commodities like olive oil that we eat - have all crept up in price, even in the lowest-cost supermarkets.

Unfortunately, from April 30 food prices are set to take another hike when new import charges are introduced.

Even small consignments of products such as salami, sausage, cheese and yoghurt will be hit with a charge of up to £145, pushing prices up further.

This will have a particularly detrimental impact on those who import artisan produce or specialities from a particular country or region, such as restaurants and hotels, or independent delicatessens.

Our hospitality sector has come through a tough few years and is still trying to recover from the pandemic.

However, these price rises won’t just affect those dining out, or anyone partial to continental cheese or suchlike; many of our everyday dietary staples also rely on EU imports, such as the grain used for making bread, and around 40 per cent of the fruit and veg we eat.

The rising costs of basic food stuffs mean that we’re going to see the cost of essential food items rise, not just treats and luxuries, and those on modest incomes who have to budget carefully for food will notice the biggest difference.

I am often asked why the UK is so dependent on food imports. The answer to that really lies in previous centuries, and in a history of international trade.

Today, most people live in urban areas and agricultural production, while vitally important, especially in a food producing region like our own, is a smaller part of our economy than it once was.

Our landscape and climate are well-suited to producing certain crops, like potatoes, root vegetables, brassicas, and for grazing livestock, but our diets have diversified over the decades.

We have become used to being able to buy fruit and vegetables that need more sunshine and heat in order to grow than the Scottish weather can provide.

Scotland produces some of the best beef, lamb and seafood in the world and we have substantial premium export markets in these and in other areas, for instance our top-quality seed tatties, but trade works best as a two-way street.

We still need and value the staples we import from our main trading partners in Europe, most significantly, the Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, France and Spain.

That is why the UK Government’s silence on the harm Brexit has done is so frustrating, and the silence from the official opposition so perplexing.

None of them are willing to admit the ongoing damage Brexit is doing to our economy and to our standard of living. Scotland deserves better.

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