THIS has been a particularly tough year for many of us. Food prices continue to soar. Shop shelves often are empty. Some of the fridges in my local supermarket have pictures of food on them instead of actual produce. And, with this being Brexitland, things could get worse.

The European Union does not want a situation where UK goods of a lower quality could enter the EU via the Republic of Ireland. The 2019 Brexit deal for Northern Ireland – the Protocol – kept Northern Ireland inside the EU single market for goods, allowing a free flow of produce across the Irish border. However, the Democratic Unionist Party was vocal in its insistence that the Protocol be changed to ensure there was no form of border in the Irish Sea.

As part of efforts to maintain the Good Friday Agreement and make sure there is no border in the sea or on the island of Ireland, the Windsor Framework was devised. One aspect of this will see “Not for EU” labelling required on British food products sold throughout the UK.

The labels could appear in four different ways on produce. The current suggestion is that labels would appear on not only the individual packs of food but also on cases carrying products and on supermarket shelves – a significant extra cost for businesses which we, the customers, no doubt will see in the form of increased price tags.

David Henig is the global director of the European Centre for International Political Economy. An expert adviser on international trade, he is the kind of man governments go to for guidance. He is scathing of the situation we now are in.

Henig says: “It cannot be a good thing for our food to be labelled ‘not for consumption’ in our neighbouring countries. It adds another layer of complexity to the trading arrangements for Northern Ireland if the UK is not aligning with EU food rules – but the UK Government has chosen to proceed in this way. It would have been simpler for the UK to align with EU food rules but the UK wanted a trade deal with the US and thought they would need to lower the food standards for that.”

If President Biden’s body language over tea with the Prime Minister was anything to go by, the much-hoped-for trade deal with the US seems some way off.

Brexit trade deals with Australia and New Zealand come into effect at the end of this month. While Antipodean politicians were slapping each other on the back and popping the corks of premium Aussie prosecco, the details were met with some shock and dismay in the UK business community.

THE Prime Minister wrote an open letter after the recent Farm to Fork Food Summit at Number 10.

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One of the commitments he made is to protect UK food standards – “no chlorine washed chickens” – but there is nothing more than a promise to “consider the full impacts” on our domestic agricultural sector.

It is worth noting that the Japanese trade deal Liz Truss was so proud of still has no protections to stop cheap imitations of our famous food names – protections they previously enjoyed when we were in the EU.

“It may well be that future governments have to re-open these deals to put in safeguards but there is no indication that the current trade deals are being negotiated in any different way,” Henig says. “People are watching what the UK does. There is a perception that the UK Government will give away anything because it is desperate for deals.

“It would be difficult for the UK Government to include the devolved governments in its strategy because it has no strategy.”

October 31 will see the introduction of health certification on food imports from the EU. From the end of January 2024, a system of physical checks on food and plant products from the EU will begin.

Internally, across the UK, prepacked meat and fresh milk will need to be individually labelled “Not For EU”, with the labelling of other goods being rolled out by July 2025.

The Scottish Government has been watching developments with concern. A new Food Security Unit has been announced.

Speaking at the Securing a Sustainable Food Supply for Scotland debate in Parliament, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “I want to ensure we are able to anticipate and adapt to shocks as much as possible, while we develop policies to try to mitigate them and reduce their likelihood.

“While it is not possible to predict all impacts, our new dedicated Food Security Unit will enable better long-term insight into global supply chain performance – helping us to improve our responsiveness to potential crises.”

There are many, like me, who are watching the storm build. I just hope we have the lifeboat ready.

Ruth Watson is the founder of the Keep Scotland the Brand campaign.