Brexiteers’ solution to rising food prices: Let them eat prawns

Sterling’s fall is already pushing up the price of food in Britain, which imports 48% of it

Cheaper food! Britons have been promised that Thai prawns  will cost 36p less  once the UK is free of EU shackles.

Cheaper food! Britons have been promised that Thai prawns will cost 36p less once the UK is free of EU shackles.

 

Forget Tuscan olive oil, Irish smoked salmon and stinking Camembert. Can’t afford Italian spaghetti or Danish bacon? Brexiteers in the Leave Means Leave campaign have the solution, which is pink, fishy and makes a lovely cocktail.

When the British finally quit the European Union, no one will lose out because there will be prawns, promises the Brexit campaign group. Yes, prawns. Roy Keane will not be best pleased.

The Leave Means Leavers are well aware that man and woman cannot live by crustacean alone, so they have assured the Great British public that there will also be lamb. New Zealand lamb chops will cost about £1.45 (€1.70) less, and Thailand prawns 36p (42 cent) less, once the grasping grip of EU tariffs is prised off non-EU comestibles, according to the campaign. Ready, steady, cook, as Ainsley Harriot has been known to say when faced with random ingredients.

Once Britain is “free of the dead hand of the EU”, the people will benefit from cheaper food and a “genuine green revolution”, Owen Paterson MP, a former secretary of state for Northern Ireland, has said.

Brexit will cut Britain’s family shopping bills by £300, according to Leave Means Leave, which Paterson advises. That’s almost €355 to those of us who persist in hanging around in the world’s biggest trading bloc.

Meanwhile, as a weird conglomeration of British public school boys scrummage over the fallout from Britain’s Leave vote, other great unwashed deplorables (some of whom might be related to me) have already come face to face with the effects of Brexit on their buffets. And it ain’t finger-lickin’ good.

Big importer

The UK imports 48 per cent of its food, so making up that gap by going it alone was never going to happen overnight. It certainly won’t happen in the two years following the triggering of article 50 and Britain’s run for the hills.

As sterling falls in Brexit’s wake, food is costing Britons more and more. A survey of 175,000 products commissioned by Channel 4’s Dispatches compared the average prices of food categories on June 23rd, 2016 and January 31st, 2017. Since the referendum, prices have risen more than 5 per cent across a range of essential food categories in leading supermarkets. Every little hurts, as they might now say.

A 15 per cent plunge in the value of the pound was always going to prove hard to absorb, and supermarket chains do not have a track record of sucking up deficits for the goodness of their health. (Profit before people, if you like.) This leaves British consumers to do the majority of the sucking.

To make matters worse, as Great British consumers push their supermarket trollies up and down the aisles, lamenting the cunning continentals and their crafty consumer crescendos, they are noticing that prices in the dairy aisles have risen as well. Butter, cheese and milk now cost more than they did before Brexit.

Wait just a darned minute . . . Aren’t they produced in the UK by British dairy farmers? What’s the story? Surely the Great British trolley pusher didn’t vote for this?

The milk used to make British cheddar cheese comes from British farms; that goes without saying. But because British milk is bought and sold around the world, the price is actually set on the international market. So when the value of the pound falls, the price of milk rises. Stick that in your truckles and smoke it.

Richard Clothier of Wyke Farms in Somerset explains that a 20-litre box of his cheddar cheese needs 200 litres of milk (that’s 400 imperial British pints to Brexiteers). It takes 10,000 litres of milk to make one tonne of cheese, so an extra 10p a litre means an extra £1,000 per tonne. Even on toast, Brexit costs.

Future maths

Not at all, tuts Owen Patterson, that keen fan of the EU withdrawal method. Do the eventual math, he says. Shaking off the EU tariff on non-EU goods will bring manna from outside the bloc.

Meanwhile, the Tories continue to eat themselves. In direct contrast to Paterson lickings his lips at the certainty of “cheaper food” once the EU has been shunned, international trade minister Mark Garnier has said that higher costs were a “well predicted effect” of the Brexit decision – and that there was “nothing” the government could do about it.

Such Tory infighting would probably stick in Britons’ craw if Leave campaigners such as Paterson were not so fantastically solution-focused. Leavers have no truck with the rising cost of cheese and baked beans. Rather, they are waiting for the international free trade floodgates to burst open and the catch to land.

Rising prices might mean the Great British public will have to eradicate their beloved cake from their diets, but at least the Brexiteers have come up with an alternative. Let them eat prawns.

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