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17 October 2016

Shortbread shortage! 6 of Britain’s favourite foods threatened by Brexit

Nick Clegg has warned of food and drink turmoil.

By Julia Rampen

“The recent drop in the value of the pound and its impact on sales of Marmite and PG Tips is only a foretaste of what is to come,” the former Liberal Democrat leader and doom-monger-in-chief Nick Clegg warned on Monday.

Speaking at the launch of his party’s report into the effects of Brexit on food and drink, the former MEP said the government’s apparent willingness to leave the single market would cause “turmoil”. It would rip up carefully negotiated trade agreements, add tariffs to Britain’s exports and create an even bigger mess of red tape, he argued.

The report also warned of challenges to Britain’s fishing industry – a concern for anyone who enjoys a late-night dinner of fish and chips. 

Here are some of the favourite foods the report says could be affected:

1. Shortbread

One Scottish shortbread maker, Bill Dean, recently warned that he would have to raise prices or lay off workers due to a 75 per cent increase in the cost of butter since the referendum – a combination of the drop in the currency and fluctuations in commodity markets.

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2. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk

Because it doesn’t actually contain much cocoa fats, the EU used to stop Cadbury’s marketing its bars as “chocolate”. But in 2000, the UK managed to win this battle, and Dairy Milk gained its place as a chocolate bar among equals. According to the report: “Once we leave the EU, it is entirely possible that pressure will mount to revert to the previous approach, thereby putting British manufacturers like Cadbury’s at a competitive disadvantage.”

3. Chilean wine

Because the UK’s trade deals with other parts of the world have been negotiated through the EU,  there is likely to be tariffs on non-European products as well. Clegg said: “Chilean wine faces a 14 per cent tariff.”

4. Scotch whisky

Whisky makes up a quarter of all Britain’s food and drink exports. While whisky producers should still be able to sell cheaply to the continent, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has warned that the loss of free trade agreements with key markets like South Korea, South Africa, Colombia and Peru could result in tariffs rising from zero to 20 per cent.

5. Cornish pasties

The EU Protected Geographical Status protects certain heritage products from being copied elsewhere. In the UK, there are 73 such products including Cornish pasties, Jersey Royal potatoes, Welsh lamb, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Stilton cheese, Cumberland sausages, Scottish wild salmon, Shetland lamb, and Scotch whisky. The report said: “There is no guarantee that the EU will maintain the protections awarded to these products post-Brexit, given that enforcement is in the hands of the Commission and the European Court of Justice over which we will have no influence.”

6. New Zealand lamb

The EU has negotiated a tariff-rate quota with New Zealand on dairy and meat products. This means that a certain amount of New Zealand lamb can be imported cheaply, before the tariff goes up. British customers benefit from cheap products out of the local season, but farmers also get some protection from competition abroad.

The report predicts that without the EU deal, importers will have to pay an extra 40 per cent tariff on New Zealand lamb – making it too expensive to bother with.