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Shoppers in the UK are “completely in the dark” about the effect Brexit will have on the cost of their weekly shop, a former supermarket boss has warned.
Justin King, who ran supermarket-giant Sainsbury’s for 10 years, said it was “very clear” shoppers faced a hike in prices but no major supermarket would reveal such plans.
He claimed supermarkets would soon introduce higher prices and criticised the lack of discussion about the potential impact of Brexit on supermarkets.
Mr King told BBC’s Panorama: “One can say very clearly what the direction will be – higher prices, less choice and poorer quality.
“All of those dimensions have been improved by these open trading relationships that we’ve had over the last 40 years.”
He added: “Brexit, almost in whatever version it is, will introduce barriers.
“That makes it less efficient which means all three of those benefits – prices, quality and choice – go backwards.”
Mr King, who ran Sainsbury’s until 2014, claimed it would be the weakening of the pound against the Euro that forced supermarkets to push up prices.
The EU guarantees free trade across the continent, which Mr King said has driven up standards and allowed shoppers to by out-of-season vegetables all year round.
But Vote Leave campaigner and manufacturing boss John Mills claimed the EU keeps prices artificially high.
He said: “Food prices inside the EU vary from food product to food product, but the average is something like 20% higher than they are in the rest of the world – so there is very substantial scope for food prices coming down if we switch sources of supply outside the EU.
“The reason why food prices are higher inside the EU is because they have got tariffs which keep the prices up.
“It’s not anything to do with quality – it’s due to the institutional arrangements with means the food prices are kept much higher to increase farmers’ incomes.”
But some British farmers told the BBC of their fears following the Brexit vote, claiming a bad deal could drive them out of business.
John Davies, a livestock farmer from Powys in Wales, said: “I’m really scared of imports – produced to completely different standards [with] hormones, you know, feedlot beef, you know.
“We’re based on green and pleasant land, high environmental standards. We really are proud of that.”
A spokesman for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “We will not in any way dilute high quality environmental standards, we will make sure our environment and animal welfare are protected.”
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