Brexit secretary admits government must ensure 'there is adequate food supply’ if UK leaves EU with no deal

Dominic Raab confirms plans being made to stockpile food - in case the negotiations fail

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 24 July 2018 16:44
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Dominic Raab says the government will ensure there is 'adequate food supply'

The new Brexit secretary has promised to ensure “there is adequate food supply” if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Dominic Raab finally confirmed the government was making extraordinary plans to stockpile food in case the negotiations fail – having refused to do so two days ago.

He told MPs the task would be overseen by industry, rather than Whitehall, and refused to go into any further detail.

In a TV interview on Sunday, Mr Rabb refused to discuss his no deal planning – sparking accusations that he was keeping the public in the dark about the reality of crashing out.

Asked again, by the Brexit committee, he said “technical notices” in the coming months would set out the preparations to keep supermarket shelves well stocked.

Mr Raab argued: “It would be wrong to describe it as the government doing the stockpiling. And, of course, the idea that we only get food imports into this country from one continent is not appropriate.

“But we will look at the issue in the round and make sure there is adequate food supply.”

The Brexit secretary added: “I’m not going to give more detail until I can set it out in a responsible and full fashion.”

Mr Raab acknowledged the “uncertainty we would face” in the short term, if the UK left the EU without a deal, but insisted: “Long term, we would still be able to thrive.”

And he refused to repeat his predecessor’s David Davis boast that a full trade deal could be agreed with the EU by exit day next March, saying: “That would be a challenge, but one that I’m up for.”

Caroline Lucas, the Green MP and supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, seized on the comments about stockpiling food, saying: “This will alarm my constituents and millions of other people across the country.

“In just over two years since the 2016 referendum, we’ve gone from being told that 'there is no downside to Brexit, only a significant upside', to the government now warning that we might not have enough food to go around.”

Despite Mr Raab’s comments about food imports from other continents, the government’s own figures show that 30 per cent came from the EU in 2016.

The next highest figure is 5 per cent – from Africa – with 49 per cent produced domestically, in the UK.

During the evidence session, the Brexit secretary acknowledged the Chequers plan had involved significant concessions, while insisting it was “too crude to say ‘meets the EU halfway’.”

He said: “We are very clear that we have come a long way with a principled and pragmatic approach.”

Mr Raab also insisted there was “no tension” between him and Olly Robbins, the prime minister’s chief Brexit adviser, who is now leading the approach to the negotiations.

“We have been very clear about this – there’s no tension between us, I think that’s clear – that all the advice and all of the meetings will be attended by me, with the prime minister, and that all the advice will come to me."

He dismissed allegations of “serious questions about the constitutional propriety of having an unelected unit” in Downing Street making Brexit policy.

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