A post-Brexit deal struck by Boris Johnson could end up wiping out thousands of jobs in Leave-voting areas, ministers have been warned.
According to reports in the i, the former prime minister’s move to axe tariffs on imports of processed rice could decimate the British rice milling industry, which is thought to be worth up to a billion pounds.
The sector has already been dented by Brexit, losing nearly half of its exports to the EU since the UK left the single market two years ago.
Now the 11 mills and five factories producing ready-meals from imported basmati rice face ruin, if the UK bows to Indian pressure to lift tariffs on processed items, the industry says.
And the vast majority of them are in Leave-voting areas.
The deal was announced by Johnson during his trip to India for Diwali.
Standing alongside India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, he proposed a deal where Delhi would remove tariffs on UK “machinery and apples”, adding: “And we in turn, we can lift the tariffs on your rice and textiles.”
The generous concession set alarm bells ringing in the industry, with many expressing surprise that the PM was so willing to just “give it away”.
Government officials have acknowledged privately that the issue is on the table, and will carry the concerns into a tenth round of negotiations due to take place next month.
There are also concerns over the environmental cost, with experts saying the government’s ability to keep food containing illegally high levels of pesticides off UK shelves is “highly questionable”.
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