What is the issue?
The UK has now left the EU completely, with a last minute trade deal reducing the risk of widespread disruption and avoiding the imposition of tariffs. However, new customs rules and checks may still impact on food supply and cost in the coming weeks and months. This would impact on the most vulnerable in society to the greatest extent, and make the issues of food insecurity and poverty even worse.
The deal agree on the 30th December is also long and complex, and its full impact is not yet fully understood. The BDA continues to engage with government, caterers, industry and other partners to understand the potential impact of Brexit. We will seek to keep you updated as soon as we can as information becomes available.
In the longer term there may be impacts on standards. The UK currently benefits from a strong set of food safety, welfare and public health standards. However, we know that other countries wish to change or negotiate over these as part of future trade deals. That must not be allowed to happen.
What does the BDA want to see?
COVID-19 has already laid bare the weaknesses of the Government’s planning and policy around food. We need urgent reassurance that the government has a plan to step in, should needs be, to ensure nobody struggles to access the food and drink in the UK as a result of food insecurity, poverty, or Brexit (even with a deal). We need urgent reassurance that the government will not allow trade deals to degrade our food standards, which would disproportionately impact the poorest in society.
In the immediate future government needs to take steps to mitigate the short term impacts of disruption to food supply or price increases that may occur to ensure vulnerable people don't bear the brunt. Important services such as hospital and school catering need to be supported to ensure as little interruption or change as possible.
What can you do?
It is positive that a deal has been reached with the EU which has avoided tariffs and other barriers. However, even with the deal there may still be issues with supply in the next few weeks and months. Therefore we would encourage our members to be prepared:
- Familiarise yourself as much as possible with your organisation’s business continuity plans and Brexit preparations.
- Ensure that there are strong and regular communication channels between your teams and your caterers/providers. Work in partnership to find solutions to supply challenges where possible. Catering colleagues are being urged to do the same.
- Anticipate that some changes may be necessary to menus or provision (such as substitutions or reduction in choice) and consider how that might impact upon your patients.
- Be flexible and be prepared to be dynamic.
If you become aware of issues, please report them through official channels but also let us know, as any intelligence is very useful.
There are a number of ways you can raise your concerns about these important issues of food poverty, food insecurity and food standards:
- Write to your local political representatives to urge them to tackle food poverty and protect our food standards.
- Advice on contacting political representatives
- Use TheyWorkForYou to find your local representatives
- Read our previous letters to ministers on protecting food standards, and ensuring the provision of specialist nutrition products after Brexit.
- Sign the Which? "Save our food standards" petition
- Support Sustain's "Right to Food" campaign
Find out more background and about the BDA's position at the links below. You can use this information to inform your own letters or lobbying to politicians throughout the UK.
- Read our letter with MAPN on food insecurity and malnutrition amongst older people
- BDA Statement on Food Poverty
- Read our letter to the Minister, alongside Sustain and others, calling for improvements in Healthy Start.
- Read about the Which? Trade Deal campaign
- Read Sustain's latest blog on the potential impact of trade on child health
- Read the House of Lords Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment report "Hungry for Change: Fixing the Failures in Food".
- Take a look at the NHS Confederation's Brexit pages
- Read about the government's 'bounce back' plan for the agriculture and food sector
- Public Health England - COVID-19: review of disparities in risks and outcomes