Rising food costs ‘nothing to do with Brexit’, insists Jacob Rees-Mogg

Cabinet minister says free trade deals will ‘ameliorate the cost of living crisis’

Adam Forrest
Monday 04 April 2022 11:32 BST
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Jacob Rees-Mogg says soaring food prices has ‘nothing to do’ with Brexit

Cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said soaring food prices have “nothing to do” with Brexit, blaming global inflation rates.

The minister for Brexit opportunities was challenged on LBC over previous claims that the UK’s exit from the EU would make energy bills and food costs cheaper.

Accused by caller Brenda of “lying” to the public before the referendum, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “There is a global inflation in food prices which has nothing to do with Brexit.”

He added: “The fact that the wheat price has gone up because, partly, the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces, is not something I was speculating on in the run-up to Brexit.”

Mr Rees-Mogg also claimed that post-Brexit trade deals would help ease the cost of living crisis – despite predictions food inflation will hit 15 per cent this year.

“With the trade deals we are doing – and particularly important with Australia and New Zealand – we are taking tariffs off food, footwear and clothing,” the minister said. “The more free trade deals we do, the more tariffs will be removed.”

The Brexit opportunities added: “These are tariff and non-tariff barriers which are being removed as we make more free trade deals, and that is fundamentally important.

“And that – in a cost of living crisis – becomes even more important, because it helps ameliorate the cost of living crisis that we are suffering from.”

The latest figures show food inflation has risen by 5.3 per cent year-on-year – following several months of price hikes – with food industry chiefs saying the impact of the Ukraine crisis was only just beginning.

LBC caller Brenda said Mr Rees-Mogg was “so patronising”, adding: “I find it absolutely outrageous that people are going to suffer from hypothermia ... they can’t eat and can’t heat their homes. How is that helping the ordinary, struggling person?”

Challenged on whether chancellor Rishi Sunak had given struggling families enough support at the Spring Statement, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “You have to keep government expenditure under control.”

The senior Tory admitted he was in “a very fortunate situation” financially – before suggested he was helping constituents make sure they were claiming the right benefits.

“My concern is people coming to my constituency surgery ... what can be done to help people, to make sure they’re claiming the right benefits – simple things like that,” he said. “There is help, but it is difficult.”

Mentioning that the price of milk going up from 20p to 54p at the farm gate, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “That is extraordinary. There is a real cost of living crisis coming from the farm gate all the way through.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg tells Andrew Marr that Brexit is a 'great success for the country'

Mr Rees-Mogg also blamed the EU for the higher export costs facing British fisherman. “The EU is very cross that we left and they want to make life as difficult as possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, the senior minister backed greater extraction of North Sea gas ahead of the government’s “energy security strategy” – expected to be revealed on Thursday.

“We need to be thinking about extracting every last cubic inch of gas from the North Sea,” he said. “2050 is a long way off. We’re not trying to become net zero tomorrow – and we’re going to need fossil fuels in the interim.”

The cabinet minister also said he was “very much in favour of going nuclear” and described the idea of reopening fracking sites “quite an interesting opportunity.”

Mr Rees-Mogg also defended his dismissal of the partygate row as “fluff” in the context of the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis, saying it was “not the most important issue in the world”.

The minister told LBC that some coronavirus restrictions imposed during lockdown were “inhuman”. He also said lessons to be Covid inquiry were “not in relation to parties” but in the harshness of rules the government had imposed.

He acknowledged that people were “undeniably cross” but insisted that Boris Johnson had not misled parliament, suggesting the PM had been given “wrong information”.

“The prime minister said that he was told the rules were followed, but that turns out not to be correct and we know that fines have now been issued, but the prime minister can only work on the information he is given.”

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