Could Brexit make British food worse than mushy peas and mad cow disease

Fortunately I live in the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane, with an outstanding variety of food.

But I grew up in Canada, and cherished the orange in my Xmas stocking. it’s routine.

Has no one seen Pirates of the Caribbean, terrible movies that make gazillions and it’s about conquest and trade, because British food royally sucks.

I try to mention that every time someone preaches about eating local: coffee and tea are not local to Canada or Britain. Neither are bananas.

Bee Wilson writes in The New Yorker that for most of her 42 years, she has been eating bananas in Britain.

The classic anti-European Union joke was that faceless Eurocrats banned “wonky” bananas and imposed a single, standardized fruit on the British people. Bureaucracy gone crazy! This Euromyth—one of many—was based on a 1994 E.U. ruling that bananas should be “free from abnormal curvature.” In fact, this rule applied only to bananas of the very highest grade. The normal British Class I and Class II bananas sold in most shops have always been allowed “defects of shape.”

Now that the Leave campaign has won the referendum on Europe, it is clear that far more was at stake for British food in the E.U. than our right to misshapen fruit.

On June 24th, Tim Lang, a professor at City University and the leading U.K. food-policy expert, tweeted, despairingly, “EU shock. Very sad.” And then, “Food Plan B now needed. Will the people who voted Brexit be prepared to dig for Britain, work in picking fields and factories for low pay?”

One of the main reasons for establishing the E.U. in the first place—aside from peace—was to insure a plentiful food supply for entire populations.

121114_richardsdeppAs Lang sees it, Europe not only nourished the British but changed British palates. With Britain’s membership in the union, sunny new produce flooded in from southern Europe: apricots, peaches, tomatoes, garlic. During the decades of our membership, the food on British dinner tables changed beyond all recognition. We developed a penchant for wine and soft French cheeses. In 1973, the U.K. was a country where olive oil could be bought—if at all—in tiny bottles from the chemist shop, as a cure for earwax. Now you could get lost in the olive-oil section of a British supermarket, from the kalamata varieties of Greece to the Arbequina of Spain.

In April, Lang co-authored—with Victoria Schoen—a “briefing paper” on the far-reaching impact of Brexit on British food. Lang and Schoen point out that, as of 2015, twenty-seven per cent of all food eaten in the U.K. (by value) was imported from the E.U. (compared with just four per cent from North America and four per cent from Africa). When it comes to fruits and vegetables, Britain is dependent on the E.U. for forty per cent of fresh produce. Lang sees this as a question of health as much as economics.

As Lang and Schoen write, “A vast array of agreements, policies and standards now underpin UK food.” Brexit could entail the renegotiation of thousands of exceedingly complex E.U. regulations, many of which concern the food system. E.U. law extends from environmental law and farm subsidies to food safety and nutrition. Brexiteers would say that it is precisely this complexity that Britain could do without.

Now, about the safety of that food.