Cost of living: CBI boss outlines steps government needs to take

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A new report has found that Brexit has caused an acute labour shortage in the UK food sector, which has crippled businesses across the country. The UK Trade and Business Commission has held a wide variety of oral evidence sessions to assess the impact of the UK’s new trading arrangements. Last month, they submitted a new report to the House of Commons that studied the impact of the labour shortages in the food and farming sector. 

The report, authored by a group of both labour and conservative MPs, warned that the crisis could “permanently” shrink the food industry in the UK, and even lead to food production being moved abroad. 

The report concluded: “The evidence we have received leaves us in no doubt that labour shortages, caused by Brexit and accentuated by the pandemic, have badly affected businesses across the food and farming sector. 

“If not resolved swiftly, they threaten to shrink the sector permanently with a chain reaction of wage rises and price increases reducing competitiveness, leading to food production being exported abroad and increased imports.” 

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Hilary Benn MP, Co-Chair of the UK Trade and Business Commission further linked the labour shortages caused by Brexit to the rising cost of living crisis that UK consumers are currently experiencing.

British farmers have warned that food prices could be going up by 20 percent in the near future, as the cost of living crisis continues to affect Britons around the country.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed food and drink price inflation soared to 5.9 percent in March, the highest for more than a decade.

Ms Benn told Express.co.uk: “Witnesses to our Commission have painted a stark picture of how the Government’s half-baked Brexit deal has undermined our food and agriculture industry through increased red tape and problems in getting access to labour, which in turn, has artificially increased prices for consumers.

“While the Government has little control over some of the factors causing the cost of living crisis, they can do something about this.

“A comprehensive veterinary agreement with the EU would drastically reduce barriers and costs for many exporting and importing businesses across the food and drink industry.”

Aside from the labour shortages, the cost of living crisis is also alleviated by the rising wholesale energy costs and the war in Ukraine.

Given that Ukraine is a leading producer of both wheat and cooking oil, Russia’s invasion has driven the costs of key staple foods.

Witnesses in the report also complained that Brexit resulted in increased red tape, despite the Government promising to make a bonfire of EU regulations after it departed the European Union.

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Daniel Lambert, Managing Director of Daniel Lambert wines, who gave evidence at the session said: “The government is telling us everything wonderful about Brexit and we have all this freedom, the reality is that we’re all drowning in paperwork, paying extra costs for the privilege and the consumer is being left blissfully unaware.

“Choice is going to be reduced dramatically in the UK market.”

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