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Those post-Brexit food supply problems

Summary:
What this should be taken as - and isn’t being - is a lesson in the merits of free trade:Problems importing and exporting food “will get worse”, MPs have been warned. Industry leaders giving evidence to the select committee on Britain’s future relationship with the EU issued the stark warning as the impact of Brexit on supply chains becomes evident.Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that new customs controls and extra paperwork have the potential to seize up import and export systems.If we put barriers in the way of trade then we shall have less trade. This doesn’t seem to us to be a controversial point.Supermarkets are already suffering shortages of some goods and Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium said the new system was “not set up for

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What this should be taken as - and isn’t being - is a lesson in the merits of free trade:

Problems importing and exporting food “will get worse”, MPs have been warned.

Industry leaders giving evidence to the select committee on Britain’s future relationship with the EU issued the stark warning as the impact of Brexit on supply chains becomes evident.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said that new customs controls and extra paperwork have the potential to seize up import and export systems.

If we put barriers in the way of trade then we shall have less trade. This doesn’t seem to us to be a controversial point.

Supermarkets are already suffering shortages of some goods and Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium said the new system was “not set up for supermarket just-in-time supply chains”.

He gave the example of a load going from a depot in Wales to a supermarket in the Republic of Ireland needing to give 24 hours notice of its contents.

“This could mean 100-plus pieces of certification for all the products,” Mr Opie said. “But stores send information about their orders daily, if not hourly. It’s an unworkable system for supermarkets.”

The conclusion being reached by many is that we should therefore go back to being in the Single Market and regain that free trade. Which is, from a certain point of view, the wrong answer. Because all these complaints about the barriers to trade are exactly what the 450 million people inside that Single Market put up against trade with the 6.5 billion people outside it.

Trade with foreigners is of benefit to us. That’s the entire point of trade after all, to gain access to those things which foreigners do better, cheaper, faster, than we do. Why, therefore, would we want to be in a system that denies us - through these very rules and processes that people are complaining about - the benefits of trading with the vast majority of our fellow humans?

Yes, being outside the Single Market involves hundredweights of paperwork to gain access to imports. That the very proof that said Single Market isn’t in fact free trade nor something we wish to do, isn’t it, given that the majority of the world economy, thus of production of things we’d like to have, is outside that Single Market.

All of the current complaints are simply more evidence of the costs of trade restriction. So, let’s not restrict trade then.

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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