London and Brexit (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
September 13, 2018
Question By: 
Andrew Dismore
Organisation: 
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

Question

Andrew Dismore AM:  Thank you, Chairman.  Mr Mayor, have you spoken to the supermarket industry about Brexit Secretary [The Rt. Hon] Dominic Raab’s [MP] suggestion that the stockpiling of food in a no‑deal scenario would be their responsibility?

Supplementary To: 

Answer

Answer for London and Brexit (Supplementary) [1]

Answer for London and Brexit (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience is chairing the London Resilience Forum and they are speaking to a whole host of people.  I challenge anybody who voted to leave the EU if they were told that us leaving the EU under the terms the Government is negotiating would lead to them having to stockpile medicines and foods and the possibility of civil unrest.  Also, when you listen to retailers and those who understand the business, they say it is ridiculous the idea of stockpiling fresh produce and other issues as well.  The worry is that those in charge of our negotiations appear not to know what they are talking about.

 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Thank you for that.  Are you aware that the Food and Drink Federation has said, “If there were to be no deal, there will be many, many months of disruption”?  Imports from the EU provide 31% of the country’s food and more than 50,000 tonnes of food pass through British ports from the EU every single day.  The British Retail Consortium says:

 

“Stockpiling of food is not a practical response to no deal on Brexit.  Retailers do not have the facilities to house stockpiled goods and, in the case of fresh produce, it is simply not possible to do so.  Our food supply chains are extremely fragile.”

 

According to the Food Storage and Distribution Federation, if there were big border hold-ups, after three days there would be gaps on the shelves in fairly short order. Of the 385 refrigerated warehouses capacity around the country, more than 90% is in constant use and the margins, therefore, are extremely tight.

 

What contingency planning for resilience of food stocks do you think is needed?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you for reminding us what the experts say.  There are some in the Government who do not like listening to experts.  I do.

 

One of the pieces of work that the Deputy Mayor for Fire and Resilience is doing is looking at what the needs of London are in relation to medicine and other essential issues as well.  You will be aware of the amount of food that comes into our country from Felixstowe.  If it is the case that there are border checks, border controls and roadblocks on the other side of the Channel, it could lead to all sorts of problems on this side of the Channel with our trucks going to the other side of the Channel, particularly fresh produce.

 

You will also have seen, by the way, some examples in the media of farmers not growing certain crops for next year because they are worried about whether they will have sufficient staff to pick the crops next year or whether it will just be wasted.

 

We are already seeing some of the consequences of the Government’s shambolic handling of negotiations with the EU.  Again, most people who voted to leave the EU did not expect the Government to be so incompetent when it came to negotiating with the EU.

 

Andrew Dismore AM:  Are you aware that at the [London Assembly’s] Police and Crime Committee last week we heard from the Commissioner [of Police of the Metropolis] that the MPS is planning for potential public disorder due to crashing out of the EU, including possible riots over food shortages?  Is it not a very serious situation when we have the MPS planning for public disorder because of the risk there will be a shortage of food, something this country has not seen since rationing and the World Wars’ unrestricted submarine warfare?

 

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  There are two big concerns raised by the police in relation to the bad deal being negotiated by the Government or no deal.  What is the co‑operation we have with our partners in Europe?  You will be aware from when you were a parliamentarian of the close deal we have with our European friends on the European Arrest Warrant, the access to data, issues in relation to people wanted by our colleagues in Europe and our ability to bring people back from Europe who are wanted here.  You will recall in 2005 that the man alleged to have committed the second [London terrorist] attack in July fled our country, went to Europe and was extradited back very speedily.  There is that level of disruption caused by us leaving the EU without a bilateral agreement or something sufficient in place, which the police are really worried about.

 

The second issue is the civil unrest.  They have to plan for it.  You can imagine that the very people today who are laughing will be criticising the police for lack of planning in relation to any civil unrest.  The police are being prudent and planning for the possibility of civil unrest.  You just imagine if big parts of the motorway near Dover or Folkstone are carparks because of the backlog caused by the borders and what could happen over the course of a number of hours or days without basic toilet facilities and other issues as well.  It is right and proper for the councils there to be planning and for the police to be properly planning.

 

What I am hoping is that the Government realises that there is a consequence of a bad deal with the EU or no deal.