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What happens to our food supply after Brexit?

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Rosie Baker of York Food Poverty Alliance explains what we should expect if Brexit goes ahead.

york for europe

“We should prepare for a bumpy ride” says Food policy expert, Lindy Sharpe.

York Food Poverty Alliance researcher, Rosie Baker, attended a York for Europe event on 21st November, focusing on how women would be affected by Brexit, and guess what? Access to food is one of the main areas that will affect women and children more than men. Expert on food policy, Rosalind Sharpe from City University, warned that “food insecurity could be one of the first and most tangible effects after Brexit and we should prepare for a bumpy ride”.

She went on to explain why:

Food is a big economy in the UK!

1. Employs 13% of our workforce

2. 75% of our land used for food

3. 70% of our trade is in food

4. Road trucks are 1/5 food

Paperwork nightmare

1. There are 850 bits of food legislation to deal with.

2. The bureaucracy of Brexit is costing billions which is considered very wasteful (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs).

Food is our “ultimate commodity”

1. It brings both pleasure & anxiety

2. Women are overwhelmingly responsible for food in the household, often the “food champions”

3. Women are often low-paid workers in the food industry, not earning a real living wage.

4. Overall, more women are poor and many women have children to provide for.

food waste brexit

After Brexit?

1. Food poverty will grow and more women will feel the brunt by skipping meals.

2. Risks towards environmental and food standards from new, non-EU trade deals: there is a recent report in the Guardian in which a US official is suggesting the need for the UK to align with US standards.

3. The door would be left open to cheap food imports which could undercut UK farmers and drive standards here down and/or put farmers out of business.

4. Civil unrest is a strong likelihood in times of food shortages.

What are the key policy recommendations then?

Dr Sharpe summarises here the big issues at the moment and says “In all of the [issues], public awareness and engagement will be critical.”


1. To get the Agriculture Bill to make more reference to food and human health (Sustain).

2. Persuading Government to recognise that vegetable production is important and deserves support (Food Foundation).

3. Making the case that agricultural reform could be used as an opportunity to allow new, small-scale entrants into farming (Land Workers Alliance).

4. Making the public aware of the risk to environmental and food standards from trade deals (Food Research Collaboration).

As part of Sustainable Food Cities, York Food Poverty Alliance is in touch with Sustain, who are coordinating Brexit-related food information for civil society groups, so do get in touch for updates on this crucial policy area.

About the Author: Rosie Baker is Research Assistant for the York Food Poverty Alliance. Do you know of any similar food poverty schemes near you? Let us know in the comments below!

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