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No-Deal Brexit: what it means for your weekly food shop

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Rising food prices and frozen wages have already made things hard for working families since the Brexit vote. Crashing out of the EU without a deal risks making things much worse.

A no-deal Brexit means a more expensive weekly food shop.

That’s the stark reality for working families if prime minister Boris Johnson succeeds in driving us off the no-deal cliff edge.

Rising food prices and frozen wages have already made it difficult for millions of UK workers to make ends meet since the 2016 Brexit vote.

No responsible government would risk making it even harder for working people to put enough food on the table.

But that’s exactly what this prime minister is doing in threatening to crash out of the EU without a deal on October 31st.

And that’s why we won’t stand by and let Boris Johnson push through a devastating no deal Brexit.

Food prices rose after the Brexit vote

Since the EU referendum in 2016, food prices have risen by 5.6 per cent.

The years of economic uncertainty unleashed by the referendum have had a severe impact on the pound, weakening its value against the Euro and other currencies.

On 23 June 2016 – the day of the EU referendum – the pound was worth €1.30. Today it’s just €1.12 – a 14 per cent drop.

That makes it more expensive to buy food from abroad and bring it into the UK. Food prices were falling before the Brexit vote, but then rose sharply afterwards.

The chart below shows an index of food prices – where average food prices in 2015 are set to 100 (source: ONS PI INDEX 01.1 : FOOD 2015=100).

It shows that the food you could have bought in June 2016 for £10 would now cost you £10.56:

Index of food prices with average food prices in 2015 set to 100
Food prices rose after the Brexit vote in June 2016

About 30 per cent of all the food we consume is imported from the EU, with another 10 per cent coming from the rest of the world.

That’s why the weakening pound has made such a difference to the cost of your weekly shop since the referendum.

These price rises aren’t just for luxury goods that people can do without.

They affect essentials like butter (up 30 per cent), sugar (up 23 per cent) and bananas (up 11 per cent).

Last year Trussell Trust, the food bank charity, gave a record 1.6 million food parcels to people in the UK.

Families across Britain can’t afford that steep a rise - now wonder they're worried about more food price hikes after a no deal Brexit.

What will a no-deal Brexit mean for prices?

A no-deal Brexit risks making things much worse, not least because when it happens the pound is likely to tank on global currency markets.

But there’s also the question of what sort of trading regime the UK will put in place if it crashes out of the EU without a deal.

At the moment, there are no tariffs – or taxes in plain language – on the goods that we import from the EU’s single market.

The government says it will reduce tariffs on most food to zero for 12 months if there’s no deal.

But that’s unlikely to happen, because the UK will be unable to impose zero tariffs on EU imports without also extending tariff-free access to all other 164 other countries in WTO.

At the very least there’s likely to be confusion over how the new tariff system works - and that could increase the cost of business for many importers.

And no deal will definitely lead to customs and regulatory checks at the UK border to ensure EU goods comply to UK standards.

This will delay suppliers, add to business costs and drive up prices for everyday goods.

With 70 per cent of the food we import coming from the EU, that means a real risk of further price rises and even food shortages for working families.

No Deal isn’t worth the risk

No matter how you voted in the Brexit referendum, no one voted for more expensive food.

Working families are finding it hard enough to make ends meet after ten years of austerity and an explosion in insecure work.

They simply can’t afford to pay more for daily essentials right now, which is why the TUC demands that no-deal is taken off the table.

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