Jeremy Vine has ignited a debate among Britons after questioning the merits of Brexit in light of impending price increases for imported food. The broadcaster highlighted reports suggesting that new post-Brexit import controls will lead to higher prices for various fruits and vegetables in the UK.
He raised the question on social media: "With looming warnings about potential food price hikes, is Brexit worthwhile? The cost of fruit and veg could rise when new checks on imported goods are implemented next week. Is it worth it to be outside the EU?"
In response, several users advocated for purchasing British produce. One user questioned the necessity of importing items that could be grown domestically, emphasising the use of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Another user, an expatriate residing in Italy, noted that even within the EU, prices for fresh produce have surged, indicating that being part of the EU wouldn't shield the UK from these price increases. They pointed out that food production costs are rising globally.
The Department for Food and Rural Affairs has reclassified many fruit and vegetable shipments from the EU as "medium risk" instead of "low risk" for border control purposes, which could add £200 million to the cost of imports, according to the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC). Nigel Jenney, FPC's Chief Executive stated that these costs would be directly passed on to consumers and could threaten many small businesses.
The Food Standards Agency reports that nearly half of the UK's food supply is imported, with two-thirds of that coming from the EU. The new controls will affect a range of produce, including peaches, strawberries, apples, pears, tomatoes, blueberries, grapes, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
According to the Food and Drink Federation, the UK imported £3 billion worth of vegetables in 2022, with 79.4% originating from the EU, and fruit imports totalled £4.5 billion, with 39.7% coming from the EU.