Brexit has cost UK households £250 in higher food bills, experts claim


Brexit red tape has cost each household £250 in higher food bills alone since the UK left the EU, according to new research.

The analysis suggests that food price rises would have been 8 percentage points lower – nearly a third – without Brexit, at 17 per cent, rather than the actual rise of almost 25 per cent.

Annual food price inflation in the UK is near historic highs, with some basic goods rising by up to 46 per cent in a year, official figures show, exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis.

The overall extra cost of Brexit red tape to UK households is £6.95 billion, according to the experts at the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, who looked at the effect of trade barriers on food prices.

Non-tariff barriers in force since Brexit include customs checks, rules-of-origin requirements and health paperwork for animals and plants.

A previous version of paper, Non-tariff barriers and consumer prices: evidence from Brexit, found that leaving the European Union on 31 January 2020 added an average of £210 to household food bills over the two years to the end of 2021. Now that figure has risen further.

Between January last year and March this year, the price of food products that were more exposed to Brexit because the UK imported them in high volumes from the EU before the referendum increased by about 3.5 percentage points more than those that were not, the research found.

The report authors blame these changes entirely on products with high non-tariff barriers.

Prices of products such as meat and cheese imported from the EU have increased by about 10 percentage points more than similar products not exposed to Brexit since January 2021, when the trade and cooperation (TCA) agreement began, the study says.

The price rises of products more exposed to Brexit are not linked to other factors such as Covid lockdowns or Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The fact that the results are driven entirely by products with high non-tariff barriers imported from the EU offers strong evidence that Brexit is the driving force behind these effects,” the researchers say.

EU supporters argue food inflation will become even worse when the government introduces new border checks in October.

The checks will mean health certification on imports from the EU of medium-risk animal products, plants, plant products and high-risk food and feed of non-animal origin.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show food CPI inflation at 19.3 per cent – down only slightly on March’s 19.6 per cent – and consumers continue to face budget-breaking price rises on basics such as olive oil, up 49 per cent on a year ago, and baked beans up 39 per cent.

Brexit has cost the UK £33bn in lost trade and investment, according to a new study by the Centre for European Reform, which found that the economic damage is even worse than previously feared.

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