Great Britain has appointed a minister specifically to safeguard the country’s food supply in the wake of Brexit, a reflection that the country’s departure from the European Union might have serious consequences for food markets.
David Rutley, a member of parliament who previously worked for PepsiCo and food retailer Asda, was named to the position at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs earlier this month. Rutley is being asked to draw on his experience in supply chain management to help resolve potential issues with the United Kingdom’s food supply as the March 29 deadline for Brexit approaches.
Food supplies are a major concern for Britain, which imports some 40% of its food from EU member nations. The biggest worry is that imposition of border controls at British and continental ports, and on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, will constrict the flow of imports to the point of creating shortages and disrupting the food industry—and every other in Britain. According to one estimate, delays of even 30 minutes would lead to one in 10 UK firms going bankrupt.
In addition to constricting the food supply, a “hard Brexit”—one with no deal with the EU—would create an average food tariff of 27%, according to an estimate by Barclays. Fears of a hard Brexit peaked when Britain was unable to reach an agreement with EU negotiators on Brexit terms earlier this month.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that Rutley’s responsibilities would be a consolidation of duties already being performed. The Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying, “I am determined to ensure that we fully realize the opportunities of leaving the EU.”