Professor Tim Lang writes in the New Statesman that today’s white paper confirms the UK government’s disinterest in food policies.
It is a mix of weak proposals with few hard commitments and it completely ignores the cost-of-living crisis. The recommendations to government ducked labour issues and whether to raise home production; the government says it is content with current levels of production. About 54 per cent (by value) of food on plates is produced in the UK, which is stupid for a country cutting itself off from the EU which feeds it.
The white paper is silent about how food supply chains have been disrupted, and made more expensive, by delays, red tape and costs at borders.
Simultaneously, the government has launched its unilateral proposal to alter how the Northern Ireland protocol is to work. It wants new “streams” at the border to differentiate between goods intended for Northern Ireland and those intended for the Republic of Ireland (the EU). This is a classic move of the Johnson administration, it wants it both ways while denying any responsibility for causing the difficulties in the first place.
A central problem, though, is George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Four weeks ago I heard him express pride that he’s been at the top food table in one guise or another for nine years. Judging by the white paper, he’s content to remain there while people struggle to put food on the table.