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We’ve Reached the “at Least There Will Still Be Enough Food for Everyone” Stage of Brexit

The grandiose promises of Brexit proponents from 2016 are getting more modest two years later. Now, instead of boasting that leaving the EU will make £350 million per week available for the National Health Service and other programs (a central, if misleading, plank of the Brexit campaign), proponents are instead reassuring British consumers that they will not be forced to fight their neighbors for the last tin of beans at the local supermarket. Probably.

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The prospect of Britain being forced to leave the EU next year without having negotiated a deal on future economic relations with Europe is becoming very real, and newly appointed Brexit secretary Dominic Raab told Parliament on Tuesday that the government is making preparations to “make sure there is adequate food supply” if that happens. He denied claims that the government is “stockpiling” food, saying that it would simply work with private suppliers to ensure there is no disruption.

Britain produces only about 49 percent of its own food, with 30 percent imported from EU countries, so disruptions could be significant if the U.K. leaves without a trade deal. According to the Guardian, other contingency plans in the works include the possibility that “armed forces could be deployed to carry out various civil functions, including using RAF jets to transport food supplies across the country.”

It’s not all bad news on the self-sufficiency front. As the Guardian’s Lisa O’Carroll notes, while Britain is a net importer of nearly every category of food, it enjoys a trade surplus in “beverages” thanks largely to Scotch Whisky. That might soon come in handy.