This might come as an absolutely sobering thought to many people, although it’s more likely to drive them to drink, but there are less than 130 shopping days left to Brexit.
Not to be caught short when the drawbridge between Dover and Calais is yanked up next March – as seems probable given the hostile reception which greeted Theresa May’s deal with the EU – a friend has started stockpiling food. This has left me pondering my own survival plan for Britain’s greatest crisis since World War II.
The threat to what’s on our dinner plates doesn’t come from a blockade of merchant shipping by German U boats, though, but from torpedoes fired by the Tory right wing and the DUP, as well as kamikaze aircraft piloted by a handful of hard-Brexit-supporting Labour MPs.
Already, Premier Foods has set up an emergency warehouse full of raw materials for products like Ambrosia custard, Mr Kipling cakes and Oxo cubes, the shortage of which is unlikely to cause me to lose any sleep. My first instinct is to confront the whole crazy shambles with gallows humour. I see my food cupboard jam-packed with tins of Spam (note for those born in the email age, Spam is a brand of pork and ham). There’s always a Monty Python sketch that conveys the absurdity of a situation, so when all those empty supermarket shelves are shown on TV I’ll do an impression of Eric Idle saying “Don’t make a fuss dear, I’ll have your Spam. I love it. I’m having, Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam and Spam.”
Food shortages from Europe will be a shock to everyone who has come to rely on Spanish and Italian cookbooks. So no more authentic Greek feta, since the Wensleydale creamery and other cheesemakers were prohibited from making it under that name by the EU, the same Protected Designation of Origin rule incidentally that stops Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb being grown in Slovenia. Then there’s Parmigiana Reggiano from Italy, Tuscan extra virgin olive oil, French plonk, Spanish paprika, Danish bacon… the list is endless.
In some of the better-off northern towns I am sure they are already hoarding tins of foie gras, so say a little prayer for people who live in places like Alderley Edge and Harrogate where I sort of imagine they eat nothing else but Suprême de foie gras au Champagne. Life is cruel.
Most of us may well end up feasting on tinned baked beans from Wigan, frozen fish fingers from Grimsby, dried peas from Lincolnshire, plus whatever we can grow in our gardens, backyard planters and window boxes, because it won’t be long before Jacob Rees Mogg, the sort of heartless and implacable character PG Wodehouse described as a 20-minute egg, starts urging us to “dig for victory”.
In which case, out with your hostas and agapanthus, and in with vegetables we currently import from Holland and Spain. To inspire us, I’m sure Channel 4 is already making plans for The Great Brexit Bake Off, and just as the Women’s Institute produced a book of thrifty recipes to get us through the lean years of WWII no doubt they will produce a Brexit Cookbook with chapters like 100 ways with corned beef.
Or, hopefully, 100 ways with Spam.
Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him onTwitter @Ratcliffe
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