Chair of Trustees, Donald Hyslop, on Borough Market’s deep concerns over the possible impact of the referendum result
In light of last week’s referendum result, Borough Market—like many institutions and individuals in this country—harbours deep concerns about the possible impact of leaving the EU, both here in the Market and across the food sector as a whole. We know through our conversations with traders that many of them share our concerns.
As an institution that does so much to promote a safe, responsible and sustainable approach to food production, we are acutely conscious that the regulatory framework that underpins much of the nation’s food supply is currently highly dependent upon the EU: food safety, animal welfare, environmental protections, the sustainability of fisheries. Many of our traders sell traditional products whose unique status is protected by EU law: Melton Mowbray pork pies, West Country farmhouse cheddar, Jersey royals. Regardless of what happens, it is imperative that whatever systems replace these vital protections and regulations are properly considered, and implemented in such a way that producers, consumers and the environment are not put at risk.
Food security is another major concern. Over the past decades, the UK has become increasingly dependent upon imports from the EU to fulfil even our most basic nutritional needs. Our native horticulture simply does not have the capacity to meet the current demand for fruit and vegetables, and if guidelines for consumption—the famous five a day—were to come anywhere close to being met by the bulk of the population, our reliance upon our EU neighbours would be even greater.
Outside of the EU, food prices in the UK seem likely to rise, with the risk that a healthy diet will become unaffordable to many. The decision to leave the EU means that the need for us to find coherent strategies for addressing food inequalities and securing the future of British horticulture is now even more pressing than before.
Borough Market is famous for its international outlook. It is a true melting pot, an example of cross-border cooperation at its very best, and it is essential that it remains so. Given the rather pointed nature of the national discourse over the past weeks, our first priority should be to put on the record our huge appreciation for the extraordinary vibrancy and cultural richness that our international cast of traders and shoppers bring to the place. Those traders bring with them experience, skills, knowledge and creativity, vital not only to the Market but to society as a whole. In the coming weeks and months, through their expertise, Borough Market will lend its voice to the debates that will set our path for the future. Whatever else happens, this will remain a market in which the food and people of Europe—and the rest of the world—will be celebrated with genuine gusto.