First it’s exit the Corn Laws (1846). Then it’s Brexit (2016). Now what?
Almost certainly the 2016 Referendum vote to leave the EU heralds one of the most important periods of transition for British food and farming since industrialisation. The Brexit vote is on a par with momentous events such as the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 which halted tariff barriers on imported food and, much like Brexit, was the culmination of a decades-long fight. It’s also on a par with World Wars 1 and 2 which exposed Britain’s dangerously low food self-sufficiency and persuaded the state and industry to reintroduce a more home-producing food policy.
The reasons for the Brexit vote are perhaps a matter for sociologists and historians. What matters now is: where next? How do the food power blocs line up? What could stop Food Brexit being a gross disruption or deviation? Or is that inevitable? How could this process aid or hinder the transition to a more sustainable food system? Will politicians be honest with UK consumers about the implications?
This Food Thinkers lecture will outline:
(a) ‘hot’ issues such as food standards, reliance on external labour force, types of food;
(b) the institutional capacities of the UK State, important for the negotiations themselves;
(c) the battle for hearts and minds of consumers in the Brexit narrative; and
(d) the tasks facing British academics and civil society.