Brexit could result in thousands of extra cardiovascular deaths in England, doctors warned this morning. In their analysis*, published in BMJ Open, they said because the UK is so heavily dependent on fruit and vegetable imports whose prices would rise dramatically after the nation’s exit from the European Union, especially with a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, consumption will fall – leading to a substantial rise in heart disease and stroke mortality.
A research team led from the school of public health at Imperial College, London, designed an economic and epidemiological modelling study to estimate the potential impacts of different Brexit trade policy scenarios on the price and intake of fruits and vegetables (F&V) and consequent cardiovascular disease (CVD) deaths in England between 2021 and 2030.
They used nationally representative dietary intake data, robust mortality projections, and price-effect estimates (change in demand of a food as a response to a change in its own price, i.e. own-price elasticity, or the price of another food, i.e. cross-price elasticity) to evaluate the impact of different Brexit scenarios on the price and intake of disaggregated fruit and vegetable subgroups and associated CVD outcomes. The four potential post-Brexit trade scenarios that they modelled, based on English adults aged 25 years and older, were: 1) free trading agreement with the EU and maintaining half of non-EU free trade partners; 2) free trading agreement with the EU but no trade deal with any non-EU countries; 3) ‘no-deal’ Brexit; and 4) liberalised trade regime that eliminates all import tariff.
Their analysis revealed that under all four Brexit scenarios modelled, prices of F&V would increase, especially for those foods highly dependent on imports. This would decrease intake of F&V by between 2.5% and 11.4% under the different scenarios. Their model suggested that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario would be the most harmful, generating about 12,400 additional CVD deaths between 2021 and 2030; whereas establishing a free trading agreement with the EU would have a lower impact on mortality, contributing about 5,740 extra CVD deaths.
They commented: “In summary, post-Brexit trade policy could increase price and decrease intake of F&V, thus increasing CVD mortality in England. The UK government should therefore carefully consider the population health implications of Brexit during upcoming negotiations and post-Brexit planning, particularly adverse changes to food systems.”
*Seferidi P, Laverty AA, Pearson-Stuttard J, et al. Impacts of Brexit on fruit and vegetable intake and cardiovascular disease in England. BMJ Open 2019; published online 28 January 2019: e026966. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-02696.