Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed rising food prices have “nothing to do” with Brexit as unions, industry officials and MPs have cited post-Brexit policy as a large contributor to issues across the sector.
The minister for Brexit opportunities responded to a concerned caller on LBC stating, “There is a global inflation in food prices which has nothing to do with Brexit.”
He asserted that rising wheat prices have gone up in part due to “the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s forces” and was not something he “was speculating on in the run-up to Brexit.”
However, food inflation has increased dramatically prior to the invasion with labour shortages exasperated by restrictive Brexit policy on seasonal worker visas, HGV temporary visas and supply chain issues.
Rees-Moggs also claimed that free trade deals such as the “particularly important” ones with Australia and New Zealand were “taking tariffs off food, footwear and clothing.”
Linking it to inflation, the cabinet minister explained that the deals would “ameliorate the cost of living crisis that we are suffering from”.
Despite this, National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters warned that the UK-New Zealand free trade agreement would post a “real risk” to farmers as its “sensitive” sectors must compete with New Zealand’s.
“UK farm businesses face significantly higher costs of production than farmers in New Zealand, and margins are likely to tighten further in the face of rising input costs, higher energy bills and labour shortages,” Batters explained.
Rees-Mogg’s statement comes as the Committee for environment, food and rural affairs published a report citing Brexit and the government’s new immigration policy as central components to the food sector’s labour shortages and rising prices.