Welcome to your new, post-Brexit world. This is entirely uncharted territory, a place where the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, the value of the British pound has plummeted along with stock markets around the world, and Lindsay Lohan has become an outspoken political advocate who’s trolling English cities on Twitter. But if there’s one thing that’s certain in this whole mess, it’s that if this move actually goes through, the Brexit will affect English breakfast, and losing the trade protections from the EU could have irreparable damage on English cuisine. The only question is how, exactly, it will all go down.
In an immediate sense, chances are good that the price of food will increase across the UK. There’s already evidence that wine will become more expensive, the result of an decrease in the value of the pound and a likely increase in the cost of imported goods. But that price increase would be felt across the English food industry since, according to a report from Food Research Collaboration, the “UK imports twice as much food as it exports,” and British-based retailers have been warning the public that the Brexit could increase household food costs by as much as £580 a year. Farmers have been worried about food security for years, warning customers that the UK might have to import half of all its food within a generation, and the Brexit may only exacerbate the fear of leaving Brits with limited domestic food options. The pickings are admittedly slim, unless you're into baked beans, because one of the UK's most prominent domestic food producers is Heinz, which operates a factory in Wigan, England that produces more than a billion cans of "beans, soups and pasta meals" annually. So I hope you like your canned goods.
There’s also the possibility that leaving the EU will undermine the quality and heritage of beloved English ingredients that are currently protected under under the EU protected food name scheme, which “highlights regional and traditional foods whose authenticity and origin can be guaranteed.” The protection means that when you’re getting Stornoway black pudding in a store, it’s made in Stornoway, the traditional way.
There are 73 food items currently protected under this scheme, all of them English classics: Cornish pastry and clotted cream, Stilton blue cheese, and traditional Cumberland sausage, to name a few. If the Brexit happens, these foods would have to renegotiate treaties to keep protected food name status, and there’s a chance knockoffs or imitators might start popping up in markets around the world.
What’s scariest about the Brexit at this point is how little is known about what will happen over the next few months, and that insecurity extends to the future of English food culture. In a report by the Food Research, examining the impact of the Brexit on the UK food supply, the authors note that even though though British food has historically gotten a bad rap, it has been transformed by the free trade between EU member countries. The diversity in food choices and innovation in cooking techniques may be stifled if new treaties must be legislated to get what were once easily available.
So imported food, and groceries, in general, will get more expensive. Classic English foods might lose their protections, and English food culture might regress. If there’s any good food news coming from the Brexit, it’s probably for the baked beans industry.