Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has warned that consumers face “inevitable” price rises on food and drink if the UK Government opts for a so-called hard Brexit.
The former Liberal Democrat leader, now his party’s spokesman on the EU, predicted huge levies of up to 59% on imported produce.
He also said farmers would face average tariffs of 22.3% added to their exports.
In a speech in London, he said leaving the single market and customs union would be a “cliff edge” for the sector, which employs 850,000 people.
And he highlighted an array of disadvantages, including the return of customs checks at EU borders, import licences, health certificates and vets’ inspections to prove UK products comply with EU rules.
He added that companies would have to continue to abide by EU rules on issues such as labelling or safety standards, but no longer be able to influence them.
Describing the food and drink industries as a “bellwether for a successful Brexit”, he said: “If the government can’t get it right for them, then they won’t be able to get it right for other sectors.”
Mr Clegg also criticised Theresa May’s “autocratic and unconstitutional” approach in denying MPs a vote on the UK’s stance in the upcoming withdrawal negotiations.
He insisted the UK Government had a “duty to try” to keep the country in the single market by pushing for a Norway-style deal, either as an end point or as a transitional status.
Meanwhile, a Conservative councillor was suspended by his local party yesterday after starting a petition to make opposing Brexit an act of treason.
Christian Holliday’s petition for a change in the law to make supporting UK membership of the EU a crime attracted more than 1,250 signatures within four days of being launched on the Westminster Parliament’s website.
Asked about the petition, Mrs May’s official spokeswoman said: “Different people will choose their words differently.”
She later added they were not views the Tory leader would share or was putting forward.