Brexit border checks will increase fruit and veg prices, leading to more heart attacks and strokes, says professor

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A study by Imperial College’s School of Public Health has claimed that a no deal Brexit could lead to 12,400 more deaths in the UK from heart attacks and strokes by 2030.

The study looked at various post-Brexit trade arrangements, and concluded that World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which would come into play if there was no deal, could lower consumption of fruit and vegetables and lead to more people suffering from cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes.

Figures from 2017 show that the UK imported £11.1 billion worth of fruit and vegetables - around 76% of vegetables consumes, and 41% of fruit.


'Free trade doesn't mean frictionless trade'

“The price of fruit and vegetables is likely to increase for the average British family after Brexit,” said Professor Christopher Millett of the School of Public Health.

“If we leave the EU at the end of March and enter the transition period, that may mean we form a free trade agreement with the EU, or we don’t, so we fall out on WTO terms.

“Free trade doesn’t necessarily mean frictionless trade, and that’s really important.

“Post-Brexit, we’ll have to introduce border control for goods coming into the country - this will necessarily introduce a cost to the price of different goods.”

It is these checks, Prof Millett explained, that would lead to the rise in the price of fruit and vegetables, rather than the introduction of new tariffs.

“Across the board, depending on the deal, consumption of fruit and vegetables is likely to decrease between 3% and 11%,” he added.


'Shock of no deal'

Sainsbury's is one of the supermarkets that has expressed concern over a no deal Brexit. Image: Getty

Julia Hartley-Brewer contested Prof Millett’s assertions, saying the research was “based on the worst case scenario of leaving the EU and losing the benefits, and at no point do any trade deals or do anything to change our tariffs, or mitigate against the other issues.

“That is not going to happen, simple fact,” she said.

“Yes, there’s uncertainty about what [the new tariffs] would look like, and we modelled a range of tariff regimes,” said Prof Millett.

“Anything up to current EU regimes with those countries with which we don’t have a trade agreement, to zero tariffs - it’s all in the paper.

“The key message is, even under a zero tariff arrangement, because of border checks, the prices will increase.

“We’re talking about other drivers of increased costs. There’s no one denying we need a border check.”

Earlier this week, several major supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Co-op, Morrison’s and Waitrose co-signed a letter to MPs warning that they were stockpiling to mitigate the effects of a no deal Brexit, and were concerned that increased border checks would impact food availability.

The retailers, along with other outlets like Pret-a-Manger, McDonalds and KFC, urged the government to “urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no deal Brexit”.