Brexit has driven up the price of food imported from the European Union, exacerbating Britain’s cost of living crisis, a new report has revealed.
According to think tank UK in a Changing Europe, trade barriers introduced since the UK severed ties with Brussels sparked a six per cent increase in UK food prices between December 2019 and September 2021.
The report found products with a higher EU import share – such as fresh pork, tomatoes and jams – were worse affected than items from the rest of the world, like tuna or exotic fruits such as pineapple.
‘Clear and robust impact’
It comes as households in the UK endure the worst living standards squeeze since the 1950s amid soaring inflation and rising energy, fuel and food prices.
Economists have warned that inflation could hit ten per cent this year amid rising prices for gas and electricity triggered by the war in Ukraine.
The report, produced by researchers from the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance, found that a “clear and robust impact of Brexit-induced trade frictions” had led to the increase in prices.
It ruled out Covid-19 as a factor, because there was a correlation between price increases and the share of EU imports for a particular product.
Analysing trade figures from the United Nations and price data from the Office for National Statistics, the researchers found the two most notable price increases coincided with Boris Johnson’s 2019 election victory and the implementation of the post-Brexit trade deal in January 2021.
The analysis suggested that, without Brexit, food prices could have fallen further before the cost of living crisis hit.
Jonathan Portes, a senior research fellow at UKICE, said: “While Brexit is not the main driver of rising inflation or the cost of living crisis, this report provides clear evidence that it has led to a substantial increase in food prices, which will hit the poorest families hardest.”
A government spokesperson said: “Food prices fluctuate in any given year and depend on a range of factors including exchange rates and commodity prices. The sustained increase in global gas prices has led to increased input costs for the dairy and egg industries, including feed and fuel costs.”