Knowledge for better food systems

Feeding Britain: food security after Brexit

A report by the Food Research Collaboration argues that the sustainability and security of Britain’s food supply would be put at risk by a hard Brexit or a no-deal Brexit, where the UK reverts to trading according to World Trade Organisation rules. The report points out that the UK imports 30% of its food from the EU, plus another 11% via trade deals negotiated between the EU and other countries. The report claims that the government may suspend food regulations if a no-deal Brexit happens, to minimise barriers to importing food. Furthermore, it criticises the UK government for neglecting the importance of retail and food service in the UK food system.

Meanwhile, UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has told the Brexit select committee that the UK government will “make sure that there’s adequate food supplies”, adding that “It would be wrong to describe it as the government doing the stockpiling” (read more here and here). One commentator - James Ball of the Guardian newspaper - claims that the “just in time” nature of the UK’s food supply chain would make it difficult for the food industry to find the space to stockpile food (read more here).

The British Retail Consortium issued the following statement: “Stockpiling of food is not a practical response to a no-deal on Brexit and industry has not been approached by Government to begin planning for this. Retailers do not have the facilities to house stockpiled goods and in the case of fresh produce, it is simply not possible to do so.” (Read more here.)

See also report author Tim Lang’s paper from April 2018, Brexit poses serious threats to the availability and affordability of food in the United Kingdom, which identifies five threats to the availability and affordability of Britain’s food supplies after Brexit:

  • Lack of regulatory alignment, which could restrict imports of food
  • Shortage of agricultural labour in the UK
  • Higher food prices due to tariffs
  • Supply chain delays, e.g. through customs
  • Damage to the production and flow of food in Ireland

To read the full report, see here. See also the Foodsource building block What is food security?

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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