In February of this year, Tesco announced it would begin selling croissants without their signature curve. The straightened croissants left some people bent out of shape and also led some to ponder if it was a foretaste of the Brexit. In the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes:
Doubtless some social historian, a century or so hence, will get a thesis out of examining how, on the very verge of the threatened “Brexit”—the exit of England, at least, from the European Community—the mass marketers of Britain ostentatiously rejected a form seen as so clearly French that it is a regular part of that ominously named “Continental” breakfast. Adding an arbitrary national shape to an established one to attempt an entirely English croissant, that future scholar will argue, is an affirmation of refusing to be one with Europe. (The crescent, moreover, is the sign of the Islamic empire, and some damp, suspicious kinds will see meaning in that, too.)
Of course, there is more to the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union than sentiments regarding pastry shapes. A briefing paper was published in February by the Food Research Collaboration. In it, professor of food policy at City University, Tim Lang and Dr Victoria Schoen, an agricultural economist and research fellow at the Food Research Collaboration, explored the potential impact Brexit may have on food systems, including food safety, prices, health, supply levels, environment, labor, culture.
Here are a few takeaways from their research:
It is an exacting time for food issues in the United Kingdom; however, there was minimal focus on it in the referendum. As Lang notes, 30 percent of the United Kingdom’s food is imported from the European Union. The combination of the pound’s value decreasing, higher costs of imports, and rising food costs could result in the destabilization of the food system. This comes at a critical time, when evidence emphasizes the need to prioritize addressing ecosystems crises such as climate change, obesity and other public health challenges, and food waste.
Food labor is an issue that needs to be considered. Food is the United Kingdom’s largest manufacturing industry and 38 percent of its food manufacturing is produced by foreign-born labor. Hall believes those who favored the Brexit should be asked two questions: Are you prepared to go into the factories and fields to replace them? Will you pay higher prices?
Now that the United Kingdom has voted in favor of leaving the European Union, there are several food issues to be addressed. Those include the protection of foreign-born food workers, preventing even wider health inequality and securing food supply. At a time of serious food politics, Hull and Schoen are concerned that Brexit may be a distraction; they emphasize the need to work collaboratively and focus on sustainability.
The Centre for Food Policy will host a meeting on the food-related issues of Brexit July 20, 2016.