Will a ‘British-only’ button for online UK food shoppers freeze out Irish beef?

The Daily Express has reported that UK Environment Minister, George Eustice and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) have discussed labelling options for buying food online.

On the back of this, Tory MPs have reportedly urged the British Government to introduce a ‘button to press’, when shopping for food online “so that you can just choose from British products”.

The topic was raised during a Westminster debate on the future of food labelling.

According to the Daily Express, Conservative MP Rebecca Pow said: “I would like to raise the subject of labelling on online shopping, because often if one wants to shop online one doesn’t know whether it’s British food or not.

“Would there be a way that we could consider having a button to press when you do your online shop, so that you can just choose from British produce? Surely that’s really going to help us as we leave the EU?”

Another Tory, Julian Sturdy, who led the debate, said: “I applaud that and I think it’s an excellent idea, and I hope the minister certainly takes that point on board”.

At the end of the debate, Mr Eustice said: “She raised the issue of online shopping. Just briefly, I can say that we are discussing this with the NFU and it may be one of the ways that we can avoid voluntary principles.”

If such a measure was introduced, there are fears here that this would further compound the difficulties facing the Irish beef sector. At present, 50% of Irish beef goes to the UK, 45% goes to the EU and 5% goes outside the EU.

Entire EU beef market will feel the effects

Meanwhile, speaking at the recent launch of the IFA’s policy paper on Brexit, Chief Economist, Rowena Dwyer said that the entire EU beef market could be adversely affected, if Irish beef exports to the UK are displaced.

“There are concerns that the EU market will not be able to cope with the additional supply of beef, if Irish exports to the UK are displaced,” she said.

It’s a significant amount of beef. If it is displaced from the UK market it will have to look for another market. What market would that be?