Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Why the only thing there’s a shortage of around Brexit is common sense


Michael Gove
Michael Gove
Lindy McDowell

By Lindy McDowell

So, where do we all stand on the Brexit no-deal, crashing out, stockpiling front? Among the concerns highlighted in Government documents carelessly left behind in pubs is the unsettling warning that post-no-deal Brexit, there may be food shortages. Define food shortages...

Are we talking here about communist-era Moscow, with people queuing for one loaf of bread and half an onion?

Or just an interruption in the nation's supply of Sicilian lemons and Gorgonzola?

And - the big question - should we start stockpiling now, like those American preppers who believe the End of Days is coming, but think they can outrun it if they have enough hot dogs in the freezer?

US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump

The most serious side to the predictions of what the Government has dubbed Operation Yellowhammer is that there could be shortages of some medicines. You'd like to think somebody will be making contingency plans there. But projected food shortages don't exactly sound like a laughing matter either.

Michael Gove, Minister in Charge of Calming Nerves, has assured us that what the leaked documents outline is a worst-case scenario and, while he does envisage "a few bumps in the road" should Boris decide to hurtle down the no-deal highway, we'll be grand. Honestly. No need to panic. Just yet...

But some of us like certainty in our fridges. So, talk food, Michael. Talk specifics. Should we be building up a baked bean backstop? Pasta? A sensible supply of those nice Belgian chocolates?

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Or should we be going the whole hog with a goat tethered in the backyard, a few hens and a shotgun at the ready to repel incoming neighbours who have failed to make their own preparations?

Should we be panicking - or panic buying?

According to statistics, we get something in the region of just under a third of our grub from the EU. Around half of this comes under the fairly fluid heading "drinks". Which drinks?

I'm assuming it might not be a bad idea, for those who consider such things necessities, to stock up on the German beer and/or the Vin de Macron.

But outside of certain fruit and veg (which I think we can mostly work out for ourselves given that the local climate is not conducive to the cultivation of the likes of avocados, grapes and lime slice for your G&T), I cannot enlighten you - or myself - further as to what "food shortages" may amount to.

I doubt we will all starve, though. We do produce food here, too.

In some respects, our problem may be not that we have too little food to eat, but that we have too much to process.

Agriculture insiders are rightly concerned about the future of the industry, specifically the dairy industry.

There are claims that as many as 45,000 cows might have to be culled. Presumably, again, we're talking worst-case scenario.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen
Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

But an interesting point is that, obviously, our local political parties don't envisage the need for "worst-case" preparation.

Otherwise, you'd think they'd be working harder to crank Stormont up again in order to ensure full services for the people who elected them.

Never mind. Operating on the principle that there is no issue in Northern Ireland which can't be addressed with a letter signed by lots of important people, they've now written to Donald Tusk. Yup. That'll sort it.

On all sides what we've suffered from thus far in the Brexit debate has been a shortage of common sense.

Who knows what "bumps in the road" lie ahead, but I think, whatever the dire predictions, we can rule out mass starvation. We are among the luckiest people on Earth. We live in a prosperous nation in Western Europe that can produce its own food.

We will survive.

Even without the croissants.

Childish Trump spitting the dummy out over Greenland

I'm not sure if you could file this under progress, but instead of acquiring lands through invasion and warfare, Donald Trump thinks you should just buy them. This week he put in an offer for Greenland.

When the story broke most people assumed it's a joke, right?


The man who tried to woo Kim Jong Un with a vision of South Florida-style condos in North Korea was being utterly serious.

His plans, not surprisingly, came as a bit of a surprise to Denmark, which has sovereignty over Greenland.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen described the very idea as "absurd".

Trump took that badly - as he tends to. He said the PM was "nasty" and that her comment was "inappropriate".

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen

Offering some guidance on what might be considered an appropriate response, he snapped: "All she had to do is say 'no, we wouldn't be interested'."

I think she did, Donald. She said it was absurd.

Following the Arctic fall-out Trump called off a visit to Denmark which had been scheduled for September. It goes without saying the Danes have not taken his churlish behaviour well.

Greenland is rich in mineral resources, which is why Trump wants to purchase the place (for the US, not for himself).

But knowing this, hasn't it occurred to him that the Danes wouldn't want to sell what amounts to a large island goldmine?

The US President seems to view the world as just one large real estate market.

He's the sort of man who'd turn the Colosseum into apartments and put a shopping mall in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

You do sometimes wonder what planet the man is on.

Prue to tackle hospital food emergency

Bake Off stalwart Prue Leith has reportedly been conscripted by Number 10 to oversee a revamp of the notoriously dire fare that is hospital food. Jamie Oliver will be gutted. Previously, Jamie had been a regular in Downing Street, with his campaign to overhaul school meals. A celeb figurehead always makes for headlines. But will Prue make a real difference? She is highly respected in the food industry, although to most of us she's synonymous with cakes and butter-rich pastry. Not quite what the doctor ordered, perhaps. But might go down well with the hungry in the wards.

Fly move by Wills sure to irk the Sussexes

No-frills flyers of the week. That would be Prince William, wife Kate and three small children, who flew FlyBe to visit the Queen at Balmoral. This delighted fellow passengers - and, doubtless, the airline's PR department. But with Meghan and Harry's ears still ringing from all the flak they've taken over private jetting, it may not have gone down quite so well Chez Sussex. Surely, they must be asking if this wasn't done to show them up? Meghan will have been irked by the extensive coverage of the Cambridges' budget jaunt. Still. Not half as much, I'll bet, as Ryanair.

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