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Brexit: Food prices 'may go up' after no-deal, Michael Gove admits

Industry body for UK retailers says claims there will be no fresh food shortages are 'categorically untrue'

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Sunday 01 September 2019 12:55 BST
'Some prices may go up, other prices will come down' Michael Gove tells Andrew Marr food prices could go up after Brexit

Michael Gove has admitted that food prices may go up in the event of a no-deal Brexit as the EU's chief negotiator cast doubt on hopes of an agreement with Brussels.

The cabinet minister, who heads up no-deal planning, was forced to clarify that "everyone will have the food they need" if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal at the end of next month.

It comes as Michel Barnier, the EU's Brexit chief, said he was "not optimistic" about avoiding a no-deal Brexit, as he stood firm on his support for the Irish border backstop - something Boris Johnson deems unacceptable.

Pressed on whether there would be shortages of fresh food as a result of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Gove said: "Everyone will have the food they need."

He added: "No, there will be no shortages of fresh food."

Asked if food prices would increase, Mr Gove told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show: "I think that there are a number of economic factors in play.

"Some prices may go up. Other prices will come down."

But the trade body for UK retailers said it was "categorically untrue" that fresh food supplies would be unaffected in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: "The retail industry has been crystal clear in its communications with government over the past 36 months that the availability of fresh foods will be impacted as a result of checks and delays at the border.

"Indeed, the government's own assessments showed that the flow of goods through the channel crossings could be reduced by 40 to 60 per cent from day one, as would the "availability and choice" of some foods."

Meanwhile, Mr Gove dismissed warnings from Brussels that the backstop cannot be dropped, suggesting progress has been made already with European leaders.

He said: "One of the things about Michel Barnier is that he’s representing the [European] Commission’s position and ultimately the Commission does at the member states decree.

"And with Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, both having said that the withdrawal agreement can change, we have progress and that progress has come about as the result of the prime minister’s clarity on the question that we must leave on 31 October."

The chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster insisted changes must be made to the deal after it was rejected by MPs, arguing the government "can’t reheat the same stale porridge and expect people to digest it".

Mr Gove is due to launch a £100m publicity blitz urging the public to "Get Ready" for Brexit next week and a new online portal has been launched to help individuals or businesses to find out how they could be affected if the UK leaves the EU on October 31.

Some of the advice on the site includes warning that those wishing to travel with pets may not be able to take their animals abroad until 2020, while urging people to "check for disruption" before travelling to the EU after October, as "border checks may take longer".

It comes as rebel MPs are poised for an extraordinary Commons showdown with the government in the coming days, as they attempt to force through legislation to block a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.

At least a dozen Tory MPs are believed to be considering joining the cross-party alliance - despite threats they could be sacked by their party - including ex-cabinet ministers David Gauke and Philip Hammond.

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