Sustain slams pub chairman's beermat claims about cheap food post-Brexit

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10 Jan 2018 --- UK food and agricultural advocate, Sustain, has questioned the chairman of UK pub operator JD Wetherspoon over claims that food prices will fall after Brexit and argues that cheap food would come at a cost, to food quality, British jobs and UK farmers. Wetherspoons' chairman Tim Martin has published an open letter in response to a customer who didn't like his new Brexit beermats highlighting support for the British fishing industry and also accusing business leaders of misleading the public on Brexit. The 500,000 beer mats are being used in 893 pubs across the UK after being introduced earlier this week.

They state that big business has tried to fool the public by saying that food prices will rise, without a deal with the EU, claiming the statement is not true and that the EU imposes high tariffs on non-EU food imports, which keeps prices high.

Click to EnlargeAnd it calls on MPs to eliminate tariffs and reduce food prices by leaving the EU in March 2019 – and states that the UK can save additional money in EU contributions.

Three industry leaders, Whitbread chairman Richard Baker, Sainsbury’s chairman David Tyler and CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, are highlighted on the beer mat as proponents of the false claims.

Wetherspoon has also used the beer mat to show its support for Britain’s fishing industry, by backing Fishing for Leave.

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “ The ‘thundering herd’ of the CBI, big business and most economists got it wrong over the exchange rate mechanism, the euro and the effect of a leave vote.”

“Their latest red herring is that we need a “deal” to avoid a “cliff edge”, which will dramatically put up food prices.

“This is untrue – parliament can eliminate food tariffs and reduce prices by about 3.5 pence per meal (US$0.04) if the UK avoids a deal and reverts to World Trade Organization rules.”

“Big business should be ashamed of its unscrupulous attempt to mislead the public.”

ButClick to Enlarge Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming has challenged Martin’s comments.

CEO Kath Dalmeny recently challenged him on this point as they both gave evidence before Parliament's Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

“Predicting post-Brexit food prices is tricky and needs to include things like tariffs, which Mr. Martin references and things like world commodity prices and currency fluctuations, which he doesn’t,” she said. “He also admitted recently that even if there were lower food prices, these could result in higher profits for retailers, rather than being passed on to the consumer.”

“Mr. Martin also fails to acknowledge that flooding our domestic market with cheap imports from places like the United States will put British jobs and British farming at risk.”

“There are no food provenance labeling rules for restaurants at the moment, so Wetherspoons customers simply won’t know if they are eating American chicken with a higher risk of Salmonella poisoning produced to lower animal welfare standards and irresponsible levels of antibiotics. Cheap food comes at a cost.”

Bad trade deals would be ‘biggest peacetime threat’ to UK food security

Meanwhile, an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology for Food and Farming shows an overriding concern that food security, environmental protection and welfare standards may be significantly weakened by Brexit.

Ahead of the Second Reading of the Trade Bill, the cross-party group of MPs and peers have released their summary of an inquiry into trade post-Brexit.

The APPG Chair, Kerry McCarthy MP for Bristol, is seriously concerned by the importance of these trade talks: “if negotiators don’t value farmers enough and build poorly managed trade deals that reflect this – particularly a US-UK deal – it could trigger a race to the bottom in terms of standards and ability of our own farmers to compete.”

“The APPG is determined that this sector should not become a bargaining chip or something that can easily be traded.”

The inquiry heard from a range of experts including Vicki Hird, Sustain’s Sustainable Farm Campaign Coordinator:

“This briefing echoes our concerns about future trade deals and why parliamentarians need to scrutinize and veto harmful deals. The APPG had the foresight to start looking at trade and food issues early - getting expert witnesses to grill and debating the very real threats for healthy, safe and sustainable food and farming from unfettered trade deals.  All MPs now need to get interested and involved.”

The MPs debate of the Second Reading of the Trade Bill is from Tuesday, January 9.

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

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