OPINION: Could Brexit Be Good For Vegans?

As questions around Britain's exit from the European Union increase - one writer muses on the potential impact on our food system
Brexit
What impact will Brexit have on our food system? (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

The interminable chat around Brexit is enough to make even the calmest person worry.

But it does throw up some interesting questions about the future of food and being vegan in the UK.

Food in the UK

Currently, we're able to eat the world - relying heavily on Europe for fruit and veg, wine and cured meats, and far-flung countries like New Zealand for things like lamb.

African countries also provide our out-of-season produce, as well as spices from India, avocados from South America among others.

While 50 percent of our food is homegrown, a massive 30 percent comes from EU countries, and a collective 16 percent from Africa, the Americas, and Asia.

Leave the EU in a flunk and that's a huge proportion of our weekly shopping...gone.

What does that mean?

Well, short-term, some believe there could be shortages. More than half of bacon sold in the UK comes from the Netherlands, Demark, Germany, and Italy, as do 43 percent of other pork products. A quarter of poultry sold here comes from Europe too.

According to an LSE report back in the summer, dairy products may become a luxury after we leave the EU.

Ash Amirahmadi, the UK managing director of Arla Foods, said: "Our dependence on imported dairy products means that disruption to the supply chain will have a big impact.

"Most likely we would see shortages of products and a sharp rise in prices, turning everyday staples like butter, yogurts, cheese and infant formula, into occasional luxuries. Specialty cheeses, where there are currently limited options for production, may become very scarce."

Rising prices

If we leave with no deal, prices will almost certainly rise as dairy products, along with meat, attract high tariffs.

At the same time, the EU has a load of food regulations which can make getting new products approved a long, drawn-out process.

In my opinion, if we start governing ourselves, we might start to see more meat alternatives coming to market quicker (especially if we just accept GMO...but that's another debate altogether).

It takes years to get EU certification on any new product, never mind something like a lab-grown burger.

plate of tofu
Will the price of tofu plummet?

A deal with China?

Meanwhile, if we did a deal with China, that could result in staples like tofu flooding the UK market.

They would no longer be subject to tariffs which would mean the cost would drop. So in theory, tofu could become much cheaper - and bacon could become prohibitively expensive.

The MP DEFRA committee recently demanded no imports of agri products in any future deals with countries that had lower standards than the UK...which rules out most of Europe, never mind anywhere else.

Sustainable and seasonal

Another good move that could come out of Brexit is a push to get people to eat more sustainably and seasonally.

With southern Europe no longer providing our fruit and veg, perhaps there'll be more focus on getting us to grow more of our own. We've seen a huge rise in young people creating 'microgardens' to combat anxiety and stress - maybe that'll start translating to allotments, foraging and veg patch clubs.

Granted, I’m painting a similar picture of the bubonic WW2 Britain Brexiteers pedaled during campaigning but it is a possibility.

Could Brexit be positive?

Of course, we'll rely much more on South America and Africa for those imports, and in worst-case scenario, our air miles will explode, and we'll all be eating mangos on Christmas Day forever. However, somehow that seems unlikely.

I believe there is a real chance to turn Brexit into something positive - to make people more aware of what they're eating and where it comes from.

And if the price of food changes, it might encourage people to make serious choices over what they're prepared to spend on.

Are people really going to fork out £8 for a pack of bacon when a pack of smoked tofu costs £1? It seems unlikely.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Miranda Larbi is a national health, fitness and lifestyle journalist who believes that veganism isn’t only a animal rights concern, but also a health, feminist and racial equality issue. She turned vegan for good after training for a marathon on a plant-based diet and partaking in a vegan bodybuilder challenge.

(c) 2019 Plant Based News LTD. All Rights Reserved. Content must not be copied without permission.

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