Brexit’s looming impact has raised many uncertainties, from what our future trading relationship with the European Union (EU) will look like, to how the UK economy will fare following the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020.
Until now, though, we doubt that anyone has felt any uncertainty about what their post-Brexit breakfast would look like!
We say ‘until now’ because we became interested in understanding exactly how Brexit is going to impact the flow of goods, and particularly food, into the UK. We investigated how the end of free, frictionless trade with the 27 remaining EU member states will affect some of the best British meals.
From fish and chips to the Sunday roast, here’s how your favourite meals will look when we’re officially disconnected from the EU.
Full English breakfast
Before: Bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, baked beans, tomatoes, hash browns, and toast.
After: Small portions of bacon, sausage and beans, toast, eggs and tea. No hash browns, tomatoes or mushrooms.
First, the quintessential full English. Adored by everyone and a hallmark of summer holiday breakfast buffets, the full English breakfast is as English as it comes. Or is it?
We did some investigating and found that British farmers currently only produce around 40% of the pork eaten in the UK, with the remainder coming from EU countries like Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands. That means, without free trade, we can expect the price of bacon and sausages to rise, meaning smaller portions of both.
If you have frozen hash browns instead of making your own, you can also count those out, as frozen processed potatoes are one of our most imported foods. Tomatoes, mushrooms, and baked beans are also at risk; with four fifths of our tomatoes coming from the EU, the mushroom farming industry in the UK only in a fledgling state, and the spices and sauce that makes baked beans so good containing lots of EU-imported ingredients. Thankfully, at least your eggs and tea will be mostly unaffected!
However, it’s likely that a hard Brexit would significantly increase the price of lots of the raw ingredients needed to make a satisfying full English, meaning you’ll have to reduce your serving size dramatically.
Before: Beef fillet, duxelles, and Parma ham wrapped in puff pastry.
After: Beef fillet in puff pastry only.
The rarest and most luxurious of our British meals – beef wellington is already expensive to make, with the ingredients including premium beef and Parma ham. Don’t expect it to get any cheaper after Brexit, though, as some of the core ingredients are likely to see some shortages or price hikes as supply chains become subject to tariffs.
For one, we import a large amount of our beef from the EU, primarily Ireland. While it’s likely that the UK market will be able to adapt to counteract the shortfall of imported beef, given that we’re also an exporter of cattle products ourselves, are possible as UK cattle farmers adapt to the changing market.
Just like in the full English, early indications hint that both mushrooms and pork products are likely to increase in price, perhaps to the point of not being viable. The olive oil that’s used to cook beef wellington with will also probably become more expensive, as suppliers in the EU face import tariffs.
The puff pastry, at least, should be mostly unaffected, so beef wellington might just end up becoming more of a beef pasty.
Fish and chips
Before: Big portions of cod, chips, mushy peas, and lots of vinegar.
After: Blue Whiting, small hand cut chips portion, mushy peas, and thimble full of vinegar.
Widely accepted as our national dish, fish and chips is proudly consumed at sea-sides from Scarborough to St Ives, and everywhere in between.
However, we import almost twice as much fish from the EU as we export, with the top five imported seafood products being cod, tuna, prawns, salmon, and haddock. Cod’s the cornerstone of the classic fish and chips, but Brexit is likely to impact its price and could potentially even make it scarcer. That means you might have to get used to the idea of a non-cod-based fish and chips, using fish more commonly caught in our waters, such as blue whiting, herring, or sand eel.
Since 99% of our frozen potatoes come from the EU, too, frozen chips might be replaced by fresh, hand cut ones, raising the price or lowering the quantity. Mushy peas and vinegar should both be unaffected, as we produce 90% of our frozen pea supply, and any shortages of other types of vinegar could be counteracted by using apple cider vinegar, which we’re a top producer of.
Before: Roast turkey, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce, and, of course, pigs in blankets.
After: Roast chicken thigh, roast potatoes, carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, small portion of cranberry sauce, and, regretfully, carrot-pigs in blankets.
The classic roast is more than a meal, it’s a British institution. It’s hard to imagine what Sundays and Christmases would look like without a home-cooked roast or a trip to the local carvery, but we might be forced to adapt our turkey-centric roast dinner template post-Brexit.
Although turkeys are reared in the UK, there are concerns that a hard Brexit will have effects on turkey farmers’ operating costs, leading to an increase in the price of the Christmas dinner favourite. Replacing turkey with chicken doesn’t seem like too bad a trade-off, but early indications show that sought after breast meat might become rarer in the UK, meaning it’s drumsticks and thighs for the Sunday roast too.
We’ve already talked about the likely effects of Brexit on pork availability, so pigs in blankets are probably off the menu, although they could be replaced with a less import-dependent alternative like carrots wrapped in puff pastry. Cranberry sauce is also at risk, given that we’re a large importer of European cranberries.
Your roast potatoes should be mostly unaffected, so long as you’re using fresh spuds, and parsnips, carrots, and brussels sprouts are all grown abundantly enough in the UK to avoid any supply issues.
Before: Suet pudding with plum jam and vanilla custard
After: Suet pudding with plain custard – no jam!
Jam roly-poly, the traditional British dessert that is sure to bring back memories of school dinners or childhood post-roast puddings, seems simple enough. But even this retro delicacy could be hampered by Brexit.
While all the ingredients for the pudding itself (flour, butter, milk, and suet) are prevalent in the UK itself, the jam in jam roly-poly is usually raspberry or plum jam. 49% of our plums are imported from the EU, and fresh fruit in general is expected to be shorter in supply post-Leave date, given that mainland Europe is a large provider. With this in mind, it seems like jam might be either hard to get your hands on or, at the very least, a little more expensive, so it’s out of this otherwise cheap pudding.
You might also have to say goodbye to vanilla in your custard, as vanilla pods are mostly imported from developing countries like , which we currently trade with through an EU agreement. Trade agreements we hold with countries through the EU will need to be when the transition period ends, and this could potentially result in shortages in the interim. The UK and Madagascar have a new trade agreement set up and approved in principle, but it’s yet to be revealed whether this new agreement will include changes to tariffs that could see the prices of imports increase.
Chicken tikka masala
Before: Chicken breast pieces, tikka masala sauce with tomatoes and spices, and rice.
After: Chicken drumsticks, tikka masala sauce with no tomatoes or spices, and rice.
Often considered the most popular dish in the UK, tikka masala is the staple curry in the nation. It’s also unlikely to come out on the other side of Brexit unscathed.
The chicken breast element of chicken tikka masala, understandably an essential component, is at risk, as we’ve already discussed. 18% of all our chicken comes from the EU, but the change in how we trade with the EU means it’s likely that breast meat will become less abundant while dark leg meat gets cheaper.
The dairy industry is also likely to be affected by Brexit, with 16% of our dairy products imported, and 98% of those imports come from the EU. Potential tariffs could make these imports more expensive, so the yoghurt and cream that goes into the tikka masala sauce are likely to rise in price. The same goes for onions, garlic, ginger, and chillies, all of which are imported to varying degrees from the EU and could see price increases or supply shortages.
Tomatoes are almost certainly going to be heavily affected by changes to trade arrangements with the EU. That means you might have to get used to a sauce that’s whiter than you’re used to – it doesn’t exactly look appealing.
What will happen to food prices after Brexit?
Going to the supermarket to pick up your grocery shopping might seem simple enough, but what you don’t see is the intricate and delicate supply chain that got your meat, vegetables, and other items onto the shelves.
About 30% of the food we eat in the UK is imported from EU suppliers, while a further 20% is imported from elsewhere around the world – countries that we’re also going to have to negotiate fresh trade agreements with. Fruit, vegetables, and meat are imported into the UK at an especially high rate from other countries, putting some of our most basic meals at risk of change.
While it seems unlikely that the supply chain would break down when we leave the transition period at the end of 2020, it’s inevitable that some staple foods will see price rises. One early study predicted that a no-deal Brexit would lead to increases of roughly 22% across all food categories, with some likely to be hit harder than others. That would see the average grocery basket increase in price from £58 to £71.
What exactly will cause this change to food prices after Brexit? There are a few reasons rises are expected:
- Free trade with the EU will end, meaning that goods being imported from or exported to EU member countries will face tariffs that increase their price. This will cause retailers to have to pay more for their goods, which will then be passed onto the customer with price hikes in shops.
- The future value of the Pound Sterling in relation to the Euro is uncertain and likely to be volatile, at least initially after the transition period ends. If it gets weaker against the Euro (ie. is worth less relatively), we’ll have to spend more pounds to get the same amount of goods from abroad.
- Additional checks on goods crossing borders between the UK and EU countries will have to be accounted for. The delay that these checks cause will cost suppliers money, and that cost is likely to be reflected in prices.
Goods that we import a high percentage of our supply of are particularly susceptible to price increases, as a higher proportion of our supply is dependent on countries which we’ll have more stringent trade agreements than currently with.
According to data about the most EU imports, that’s likely to include:
- Olives – 100% imported from the EU
- Frozen potatoes – 99% imported from the EU
- Spinach – 99% imported from the EU
- Peaches and nectarines – 92% imported from the EU
- Cucumbers – 71% imported from the EU
- Tomatoes – 70% imported from the EU