Outside the Customs Union the Brexit Diet will be the healthiest yet

Outside the Customs Union the Brexit Diet will be the healthiest yet

by Jonathan Stanley
article from Monday 5, February, 2018

IMAGINE IF there was just one decision you could take that would make you healthier. Just one moment on one day that would change everything.

Imagine a country where the incidence of diabetes, bowel cancer, heart disease and strokes began falling to levels seen in the prosperous parts of the mediterranean.

Imagine your waistline, and those of your family and colleagues, slim down to how people looked in the 1960s and 70s.

Imagine.....OK let's stop imagining. It's happening and unless Brexaphony Phil Hammond and his dreary Groundhog Day Remoaners stop it we are about to leave the EU Customs Union and its Common Agricultural Policy. That's a massive change in how we eat in the UK.

The Common Agricultural Policy was designed to stop us being thin, that is it was and always has been focused on ensuring Europe has all the calories it needs and then some. With generous subsidies it has achieved that. Wheat, Sugar, Dairy Products, Oilseeds and Beef suck up the vast majority of CAP payments. In the UK alone arable (grain) crops consume 50% of the payment, vegetables less than 3%.

Farms across the EU all work to a grand and uselessly outdated system the French refuse to budge on. In the past 40 years our lives have become far less strenuous. We drive everywhere and no one really works that hard anymore, not physically. The result we are all to some extent getting fat or getting to the gym. Simple maths really because our diets haven't changed so much energy wise.

Yes we have a few new herbs and spices, and a few more tropical fruits, but really what has changed is the amount of processed fat laden snacks and meals based on the above subsidised commodities. The local supermarket will have more space devoted to biscuits than vegetables, more to ready meals than fruit, more to wine than (real) juice.

Outside the EU there is a different world and without the external tariff regime and CAP bias the UK could find itself eating very differently, if we wanted to. Here are just five ways we can Brexit to better health.

End all import duties on salads and vegetables.

We pay a 10% tariff on greens imported from outside the EU. With so much lecturing on how to eat better surely removing tariffs from healthy veg and leafy salads is common sense? Much of the EU produce is produced in Spain using quasi slave labour from North Africa and we are helpless to intervene. We will soon have a chance to eat more ethically then too.

End duties on fruit, juices and VAT on smoothies

The EU gave us VAT and by and large set the rules. So a fruit smoothie costing two pounds sends forty pence straight to Phil. Imported orange juice attracts a tariff of around 12% if fresh, and 33% if from concentrate so cheaper juices carry higher tariffs!

Remove every price support for the sugar monopoly. Every one

There can few things more senseless than having import tariffs on cane sugar so a single company in the UK can produce it from beets. Across the EU this turnip based racket costs us billions. Around £200m is spent growing these disease prone beets in England; that's half what Scotland spends on NHS dentistry. If we kept the current external tariff on cane which already allows small countries an exemption and applied it to sugar from the EU the price of sugar would naturally rise. That £200m could come in handy too.

Abolish business rates for greengrocers and salad bars

Hipsters and the rest of us can all rejoice. Business rates are a horrible tax in any case but taxing people to eat well is plain stupid. There really can be no sense in it. Brexit is not required for this step, the UK government is perfectly able to do it now. No excuses.

Reconnect to old trading partners for higher quality, cheaper beef and dairy

The UK has a home advantage in producing excellent high end cattle and fresh milk. For bulk dairy products like butter, cheese and of course for cheap beef we have great partners just waiting to resume exports. Argentina, Australia and New Zealand can supply us without the subsidies the EU gobbles up. Cheaper food without subsidies means more pennies in the pocket for families here.

We should be much more positive about Brexit. Some of the healthiest parts of our diet are tariffed, much of the worst is subsidised. We don't have a 1970s lifestyle anymore and any farm policy we have should reflect the fact that more fruit, more veg and less but higher quality dairy and beef are the way to go. Subsidising the makings of cookies and cakes and chips just doesn't make any economic sense.

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