Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about post-Brexit trade and UK food prices.
I appreciate your concerns on this vital issue. While the Government has sought to talk up the potential opportunities of Brexit that it hopes to deliver at some point in the future, UK businesses and consumers in the here and now have faced supply chain chaos, worker shortages and gaps on supermarket shelves. These problems were foreseeable and have been made worse by the Government’s own actions: through gaps in its deal with the EU, new barriers at the border and the lack of a workforce strategy.
Before the Government can pursue any of the post-Brexit opportunities it claims will appear in the future, it must first put in place solutions for the real problems we face in the present world of red tape, bureaucracy, lost business and damaged trade. To this end, Government Ministers must stop ignoring the voices of businesses and unions. I therefore hope they will give proper consideration to the findings of the UK Business and Trade Commission’s interim report and the recommendations it puts forward.
I believe we need to look at how we can fix the gaps in the Government’s Brexit deal, so we can resolve them without the risk of trade wars and years of painful negotiations. I believe, for example, that we should reach a new veterinary agreement with the EU for trade in agri-products, as well as a deal on mutual recognition of conformity standards across all sectors. We should also seek a new, better long-term deal for UK hauliers to ease the supply chain problems we are facing. I can assure you that I will continue to support efforts to hold the Government to account on this issue.
In the meantime, it is hard-working families and struggling businesses who are paying the price. As you note, this hardship is compounded by the Government’s decision to increase National Insurance contributions for low- and middle-income workers and to cut Universal Credit by £1,000 per year. These measures will create an avoidable and unacceptable burden on working people who are already facing a growing squeeze on their living standards. I have therefore supported several efforts in Parliament to force the Government to change direction on these issues and can assure you that I will continue to do what I can to press it to act urgently to protect people’s living standards.