As the shape that will be taken by Britain's trading environment post-Brexit remains unclear, the Cabinet Office has formally denied having any information about even the possibility of major food shortages.
The denial came in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that asked whether things remain the same now as they were in 2012, when the Cabinet Office issued a similar denial. For the purposes of the Act, the department also speaks on behalf of the Prime Minister's Office.
Despite the present uncertainty as to whether trade talks between Britain and the EU will even commence, let alone the shape that any trade agreement might take, the denial by the Cabinet Office was categorical.
Cryzine has seen copies of all three documents - the request and the two responses - none of which have yet been published.
The request asked for "any documents (...) regarding the possible scenario of major food shortages or the threat of famine in the UK", a scenario defined as "shortages in which at least 1% of the population might be at risk of not getting enough to eat, unless emergency steps (are) taken".
‘‘Could the finest moment of Thomas Malthus, said to be the canonical expresser of the Tory attitude towards the lower orders, be yet to come?It continues "These documents would include, for example, documents regarding the scenario which might arise if financial collapse brings a collapse of international trade, and importing food in the quantities in which it is currently imported then becomes difficult or impossible."
The 2012 reply stated that "(the) Cabinet Office does not hold any information relating to the type of scenario you describe (...) (A) scenario of (that) severity is not considered likely in present circumstances".
The second request, submitted last month, asked whether the statements made in 2012 are still true today, "given the decision to leave the EU and the consequent uncertainty including regarding the shape that will be assumed by the UK's foreign trade relations in the near future".
The 2017 reply, released late last night, states in no uncertain fashion that "the statements made in (the 2012) response still hold today".
The Cabinet Office repeats its unequivocal denial that it holds any information regarding emergency food stocks.
It further states that "the UK has a highly effective and resilient food supply chain (and) the resilience of the sector has been demonstrated in response to potentially disruptive challenges in recent years", that "the food industry remains highly resilient owing to the capacity of food supply sectors and the high degree of substitutability of foodstuffs".
It is not clear how substitutability can prevent starvation in a country such as Britain that imports more than half its food.
‘‘They know. They must know. Cryzine's advice: stock up on food nowExplaining that "(the Government intends) to seek customs arrangements that facilitate trade relationships with our European partners", the Cabinet Office makes clear that it holds no papers regarding a possible failure to achieve its intention.
The Cabinet Office's Nero-like denial comes in the face of statements by various players in the British food industry that there may well be very serious problems.
* The National Farmers' Union has revealed that British horticulture had a shortfall of 29% in its seasonal workforce in September, causing tons of fruit to be left to rot across the country.
* Frazer Thompson, boss of Chapel Down, Britain's biggest winemaker, has said in no uncertain terms that if the agricultural labour issue is not sorted out after Brexit, Britain will "starve".
* The chief executive of supermarket giant Sainsbury, Mike Coupe, has said that fresh food could be left rotting at the border if strict customs controls for EU goods are introduced after Brexit.
* In an article published by the Royal Society, researchers have emphasised that Britain imports more than half its food and its animal feed
* While the Tory right paint World Trade Organisation terms as if they are some kind of fallback in the event of "hard Brexit", the reality is that no country has the right to trade with another country without a trade agreement. In a country as reliant on food imports as Britain, famine remains a very real possibility if trade breaks down.
* In July, leading food policy specialists in London, Sussex and Cardiff published a briefing paper entitled "A Food Brexit: Time to Get Real", warning that "the implications of Brexit for food are potentially enormous". They found not just that "the entire UK food system is dependent on migrant labour", but also "the UK food system faces real challenges on food security". Their conclusion was stark and terrifying: "The UK has no food policy".
‘‘Could a population readjustment, also known as FAMINE, be around the corner?In their words: "Supplies could be reduced, prices could become increasingly volatile, environmental sustainability could be further diminished, safety could be imperilled, inequalities could be amplified, and public trust be undermined. The just-in-time distribution systems, complex contracts, and labyrinthine supply chains cannot quickly or easily be restructured."
But for the British government, it appears all can only possibly be hunkydory.
We have to ask whether the finest moment for the wicked 19th century English curate Thomas Malthus, believed by astute critics to be the father of the quintessentially Tory and British ruling class attitude towards the lower orders, is not still to come. Could a population readjustment, also known as FAMINE, be around the corner?