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Councils urged to ramp up contingency planning to avert food disruption in any version of Brexit

Local authorities in the UK must strengthen planning for possible disruption due to Brexit, and prepare for the role of communicating food information to the public, according to a new report co-authored by a University of Sussex professor.

The document, published as part of the Food Research Collaboration’s (FRC) Food Brexit Briefing series, urges council executives to draw on the local food expertise that exists within local authorities in order to strengthen contingency planning and communication capacity.

Written by leading food policy experts at the University of Sussex, City, University of London, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and Cardiff University, the briefing refers to the 2004 Civil Contingencies Act which calls for the formation of local Resilience forums to deal with risks and clear communication with the public at times of disruption.

Professor Erik Millstone, from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, said: “The Prime Minister’s announcement that she will soon resign plus the breakdown of cross-party Brexit talks, have increased the chances of a No Deal Brexit. 

“No Deal would disrupt food imports from the EU, which supplies almost 40% of the UK’s food. English local authorities would be caught in the cross-fire, in part as they have special responsibilities for school pupils, the elderly and people in social care. They should actively prepare contingency plans to help ensure their residents don’t go hungry.” 

The briefing also highlights the need to maintain pressure on Government to provide better information about food supply risks.

Gary McFarlane, Northern Ireland Director of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), said: “We know that many local authorities have engaged in emergency planning for Brexit. However, in some cases it appears that this planning has not included any consideration of food supplies.

“We believe this is an omission. We would urge all authorities to include food in their Brexit preparations, and in so doing utilise the local food supply knowledge that exists among Environmental Health, Trading Standards and other public officials.”

Professor Tim Lang from City, University of London added: “The current political ‘calm’ over Brexit should not lead to a lapse in preparations. But it does provide local authorities with an opportunity for intelligence-sharing and planning, without the distraction of Westminster upheavals or even panic.”

The briefing updates advice that was published in November 2018 and sent to every council in the UK urging them to set up food resilience teams to risk assess how different Brexit outcomes might affect the food supply in their local area.

For the full set of new recommendations, read the briefing online

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By: Stephanie Allen
Last updated: Wednesday, 22 May 2019