Britain’s biggest foodbank charity is preparing “crisis responses” for Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.
The Trussell Trust, which has a network of 1,200 foodbank centres across the UK, said that any form of Brexit would increase demand and called on the government to intervene to stop those already struggling from going hungry.
“We’re investigating crisis responses to Brexit, with a particular focus on the outcomes of a ‘no deal’ Brexit as it poses the most immediate and severe risks to the supply of food and price of essentials,” Emma Revie, the trust’s chief executive, told HuffPost UK.
But, she added, there’s a limit to how much they can prepare. “We’re seeing the highest levels of need across the UK – foodbanks are already over-stretched.
“We cannot continue to rely on support driven by volunteers and food donations to pick up the pieces,” she said.
The risk that the cost of essentials will increase following the UK leaving the EU was “strong”, she said, however those “who are already struggling to put food on the table” will be the least able to keep up with the rising cost of living.
The trust is calling for the government to lift the benefit freeze in April when the new tax year starts. Since 2015/16 the government has not increased welfare payments in line with inflation, which means that while the cost of living has risen, benefits haven’t, putting extra pressure on those already struggling.
They are also calling for an end to the controversial five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payments. Currently most existing benefits are stopped after claimants apply or are moved onto the flagship welfare reform, meaning they are stuck without income for that period.
Revie said: “There must be additional protection and support in place to ensure people are not swept into poverty as Brexit unfolds.”
Her comments come as figures reveal that manufacturers are stockpiling goods at the fastest rate since records began as they prepare for a hard Brexit and major disruption at ports, with a slowdown in the sector also expected to drag on Britain’s economic growth.
The Markit/CIPS UK manufacturing purchasing managers’ index showed stock-piling increased at the sharpest pace in the survey’s 27-year history last month.
A host of companies including Tesco, Unilever and Marks & Spencer are among those hoarding goods as part of contingency planning, despite the government having insisted that Brexit would see businesses and citizens retaining the “exact same benefits” of EU membership.
On Monday, the country’s largest food outlets and supermarkets wrote to MPs to warn them that a no-deal Brexit could result in empty shelves and price rises.
The letter said that despite having worked on contingency plans, their ability to to mitigate the risks of a no-deal is “limited” as one third of UK food comes from the EU and it’s impossible to stockpile fresh foods such as fruit and salad.
The department for work and pensions and the department for exiting the European Union have been approached by HuffPost UK for comment.