A Recipe Book for the Armed Brexit

In a country of Gogglebox and Love Island viewers that loses its shit at the first soft flurry of snow, the idea of there being a capacity for resilience in times of real crisis seems far-fetched.

Here, Craig Dalzell reminds us what happens when the Just In Time delivery system falls over. For a country in which 1.5 million people are already reliant on foodbanks, further price rises and disruptions this aren’t good news and likely to hugely exacerbate inequality …

“Foodbank use in the UK is already spiraling out of control and any further spike is going to crash that system too. Foodbanks are also utterly reliant on the charity of people buying food and donating it to the banks. What’s going to happen to those donations if people are stockpiling for their own use?”

As Ash Sarker explains: “Hard Brexit has never been about sovereignty – it’s about creating a legislative bonfire to decimate protections enshrined in law, and hold the UK hostage to corrupt corporate interests.” Joyce McMilan calls it a “fever dream”.

Brexit as a form of hyper-nostalgia is the emergent form, a new isolationism in a country that already has a disastrous relationship with food.

In a country that has concentrated the food system into the hands of a handful of companies, that has a population more divorced from land, nature, seasonality and place than almost anywhere else in Europe, and that already has staggering food poverty and insecurity, Brexit-style shortages aren’t going to arrive into a context of resilience, balance and plenty. They will arrive into a context of childhood obesity, diabetes and deep cultural ignorance.

Visions of a return to grans shortcrust pastry and Dig for Victory doesn’t quite cut-it in a nation that not so long go was inadvertently dishing-up Horse on the school menu. All of that Allotment Kitsch and Farmers Markets flogging Gluten-Free Cupcakes is all going to seem particularly useless when Farage’s project collapses like an over-exposed soufflé.

It gets worse. The metric used by both the Scottish and UK governments to measure success in “food” is usually how good our food exports are. No other real measurements are used. It’s a bit like measuring economic success in car sales. Post-Hard Brexit that doesn’t really work any more. This is a country (Scotland) that thinks having fish-farms and flogging salmon to China is a great idea, and that campaigned for teeth-rotting Irn-Bru as some kind of icon of national pride.

5 a day? Few of us come anywhere near it but in the absence of access to fresh fruit and vegetables you can forget that.

Spam Democracy

Nor does this particularly virulent form of Disaster Capitalism derive from the popular will as routinely claimed. This isn’t happening with just the momentum of The People but with the organised will groups with direct economic interest.

On food standards and regulations there’s a feeding frenzy of right-wing think-tanks queuing up to divvy-up your rights to good (or at least nominally safe) food. As the dearth of foreign workers leaves crops rotting in the ground the glee with which policy makers are eyeing up the potential profits of a free trade agreement is undeniable. Politically, for both the Trump administration and Theresa May’s beleaguered government this would be a rabbit out of the hat moment, a vindication of the Global Britain rhetoric for May and a clarion of American Means Business for Trump.

Unearthed have revealed the reality of the Anglo-American trade deal after a transatlantic network of conservative think tanks accidentally published its secret plans to influence US-UK trade negotiations.

They declare: “Documents outline plans to form an “unprecedented” coalition of hard-Brexit and libertarian think tanks, which will call for Britain to ditch strict EU safety standards – including rules on food and pharmaceuticals – in order to secure a sweeping US-UK trade deal.

The group will hold “shadow trade talks” in Washington and London to “hash out an ‘ideal’ US-UK free trade agreement (FTA).” It hopes this will form the “blueprint” for the real negotiations between the British and US governments.

The project plan – which was discovered by Unearthed – claimed the talks would be attended by an official from Fox’s Department for International Trade (DIT), with the aim of making sure the department feels “ownership” of the process. Trade secretary, Liam Fox, has previously told the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) – which is organising the talks – that his department is  “a very, very willing partner in your great and wonderful quest.”

The plans have been removed from the Initiative for Free Trade website but Unearthed have published them here.

Today we’re told that “the IEA claimed it had arranged for Tucker Link, a business figure from Oklahoma who at the time owned a 4,450-hectare (11,000-acre) cattle ranch, to meet the Brexit minister at the time, Steve Baker” (see “Rightwing UK thinktank ‘offered ministerial access’ to potential US donors”).

Some people have short memories. Way back in 2000 after the BSE Inquiry into the emergence of BSE and new variant CJD, it was revealed that one of the causes was cattle (herbivores), being fed the remains of other cattle in the form of meat and bone meal (MBM).

A report by the Soil Association highlights 10 concerns about food safety in a post-Brexit era that ushers up the ghost of the 4.4. million cows killed as result f the BSE crisis. These foods are currently banned in the UK:

  1. Chlorine-washed chicken (banned in the EU).
  2. Hormone-treated beef (banned in the EU).
  3. Ractopamine in pork (banned in the EU).
  4. Chicken litter as animal feed (banned in the EU). Includes the birds’ faeces.
  5. Atrazine-treated crops (banned in the EU). Atrazine is a herbicide used on 90% of sugar cane, which can enter into the water supply and interfere with wildlife.
  6. Genetically modified foods (banned in the EU).
  7. Brominated vegetable oil (banned in the EU). BVO is used in citrus drinks; Coca-Cola announced it would stop using BVO in 2004.
  8. Potassium bromate (banned in the EU). A dough conditioner also banned in China, Brazil and Canada, in tests on rats it has been found to be a possible carcinogen.
  9. Azodicarbonamide. A bleaching agent for flour, it has been linked to an increase in tumours in rats.
  10. Food colourants (banned in the UK, regulated in the EU). Can lead to hyperactivity in children.

If we can now see the corporate vultures circling around the carcass of Brexit Britain we can also see the deep-irony that the communities most likely to be hit hard by any disruption to the food system are those already disfigured by inequality and diet-related ill-health.

This is a perfect storm of disaster capitalism, climate change and nationalism leading us into a new era of hunger and food madness.

Comments (9)

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  1. Bee Cee says:

    Interesting article however your assertion that Scotland was “campaigning for teeth-rotting Irn Bru as some kind of national pride” is wrong and misleading. We were not campaigning FOR more sugar , rather we were campaigning AGAINST aspartame being added to Irn Bru. In the context of your article about food security and safety this is an important distinction.
    Thank you

    1. I don think it is. I wasn’t specifically referring to you (whoever you are). In general there was / is a surge of support for the old Irn-Bru recipe because it has more sugar. In some ways this is just funny/fine in other ways its a bit weird, isn’t it?

      1. Bee Cee says:

        I am simply a member of the public who added my voice to the “anti-aspartame-leave-the-sugar-in-Irn-Bru” movement. If I wanted more sugar I could simply add it into the golden liquid… what I cannot do is remove the aspartame. It is revolting and it is shoved into so many food and drink products. I can scarcely get a gin and tonic anywhere now. Or a nice cocktail. Aspartame is ubiquitous. It gives me a headache and has a horrible aftertaste.
        Here is one of the petitions. Aspartame is the issue. https://www.change.org/p/barrs-soft-drinks-company-hands-off-our-irn-bru-please-dont-change-the-recipe-by-cutting-sugar-for-sweeteners

        1. Brewdog says:

          What an altruist you are: you need to think about yourself too and not just other people (sarcasm). In a country where 29% of children are morbidly obese and where the Scottish Government has pledged to try to half that figure by 2030 should we scrap those plans because “aspartame gives you a headache” ? After all, who gives a toss about nearly thirty percent of the population dying young when you can “scarcely get a gin and tonic” and aspartame has a “horrible aftertaste”.

          1. Moatson says:

            As someone who rarely partakes of any fizzy drinks perhaps I shouldn’t comment but I have to agree with Bee Cee, aspartame does have a horrible aftertaste.

          2. Yeah it does, thats not really the point

  2. w.b.robertson says:

    wow! So we are all facing famine? Time to sell all my shares in Tesco/Morrison/Sainsbury etc… The world of commerce faces collapse. The dead will be lying unburied in the streets. Or this hyping of fear seems to be yet another example of fake news.

  3. Wul says:

    “As Ash Sarker explains: “Hard Brexit has never been about sovereignty – it’s about creating a legislative bonfire…”

    Thing is; Brexit WAS about sovereignty to the many people in England & Scotland who voted for it. They wanted to be more in control of the levers that influence their daily lives and to have some real, actual democracy.

    The sad thing is they have handed even more unbridled power to those who see them as simple consumer units, have no concern for their long-term well being and, truth be told, hold them in utter contempt.

    I’m still struggling to understand the mechanism that persuades people who have been shafted for decades by obscenely wealthy parasites, to hand yet more power to those self-same leeches.

    W.B. above, scoffs at the “scaremongering” of those who are frightened of what Brexit will unleash but the fact is “The Market” is going to gain an unprecedented power over us all. And what “The Market” wants, is ALL money going to fewer people and a cowed population who will work for any wage, however low, however poor the terms & conditions.

    I suspect W.B. is comfortably off, safely insulated from the labour market by age or wealth and/or stands to benefit financially from the “freedom” that awaits our island.

    1. Wul says:

      As “corrupt” or “neo-liberal” as the EU “technocrats” may be ( I’m no expert), I’ve always had faith in my European cousins to rise up and say “enough is enough” when the masters get too greedy.

      The French sure know how to organise a protest or blockade. Northern European folk seem to have a better understanding and defence of their work-life balance and societal culture and are less likely to “go the extra mile” at work to please the boss.

      In contrast, our new best pal, the USA, has seen mass industrial action fall to historical lows over the last two decades. Is that because the workers there are all well paid, securely employed and happy and healthy at work?

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