Brexit: councils told to set up 'food resilience' teams to prepare for supply shortages

Experts say councils must do more and warn that government advice is ‘inadequate’

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Friday 30 November 2018 12:40
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What does a no-deal Brexit mean?

Local councils should set up specialist teams to ensure there is enough food in their area in the event of a no-deal Brexit, experts have said.

The “food resilience teams” would assess the risk that Brexit poses to the supply, distribution and safety of food, according to a report by specialists at the University of London, University of Sussex and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH).

They voiced concerns that problems with food supply could trigger public disorder, as it has in the past, and said councils would need to act as the “local voice and ears” in order to prevent this.

Other risks include price rises, reduced availability, lower standards and safety and supply disruption, the report warned.

It comes amid ongoing doubts over Theresa May’s ability to get her proposed Brexit deal through parliament and a lack of clarity about what will happen if MPs reject it. Unless the government puts forward a new plan or parliament intervenes, Britain will crash out of the EU next March without a deal.

The CIEH document was sent to every council in the UK. It suggests the food resilience teams should conduct comprehensive analysis of food systems in their area and assess where risks could lie.

They should also oversee plans for stockpiling and liaise with the government to help Whitehall officials coordinate supplies across the country, experts said.

The report said the government’s guidance on how to deal with a no-deal Brexit was “inadequate” and that local councils had not been given enough advice.

Councils have responsibility for food safety and supply in a number of areas, ranging from school meals to imports and exports.

Every Brexit outcome will affect the food system in some way, the experts said, with a no-deal scenario having the biggest impact.

Professor Tim Lang, of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, said: “Setting up food resilience teams is something practical local authorities can do. These should map local food system risks and help set public protection priorities.”

Tony Lewis, head of policy at CIEH, said: “Local authorities have been asking us for practical advice on how to prepare for a food Brexit – this document contains that advice.”

Erik Millstone, professor of science policy at the University of Sussex, said: “The impact of Brexit on food supplies will depend on where people live.

“Those furthest from Channel ports will be at greatest risk of shortages, which is important for local authorities because their locations will make big differences.”

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