Buy British?

As I awoke from my slumbers this morning I heard the Agriculture Minister, Jane Kennedy, stumbling to tell us she could not recommend that we buy British. She did ,however, tell us our purhases of certain foods from the UK was rising and she did at least seem pleased about that.

At a time when we are in debt and running a huge balance of payments deficit, when we are worried about future job losses and too little demand, why can’t our Ministers recommend that we buy British? More importantly than their words, why can’t we stick a Union flag on the packaging and be proud of it? If they get on so famously with our competitors on the continent, why can’t they tweak the rules? As the EU wants the Uk economy to be in better balance, surely they see the need for us to buy British bacon instead of Danish and British beef instead of continental?

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12 Comments

  1. Kit
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Please let's not get into flag waving protectionism. If we can buy better and cheaper from abroad we should do so.

    • David Eyles
      Posted November 26, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

      Kit: I don't think JR is talking about "flag waving protectionism" here. The clue is in your own qualification: "better and cheaper". The fact is that British farmers produce food to the highest standards of environmental and animal welfare in the world. Bar none. When buying British food, that is what you are getting. It may cost a little more, but usually does not, because we are competing in a world market in the highly skewed arena of four or five ruthless supermarkets whose only interest is their own bottom line.

      Usually, the consumer would like to buy British food, but is often confused by the labelling which can still, legally, use the wording: "produced to British Farm Standards" when actually they mean that it has been produced in, say, Denmark to (allegedly) the same standards that apply in this country. Pork and bacon in particular are prone to this particular spin by the supermarkets and the consumer is deliberately misled as a result.

      I did not hear the agriculture minister making her comments, but from what JR reports, it sounds depressingly familiar. Right from the very begining, this government have done everything they can to destroy British farmers, principally because we are not part of their favoured "client group" and are perceived as belonging to the "forces of conservatism".

      As JR quite correctly points out, proper, conspicuous labelling with the use of a union flag, would help enormously to clarify things for the consumer and shift the balance of trade very slightly in favour of this country. Within sensible limits, the fewer imports we have to pay for, the quicker we can pull ourselves out of the huge debt that Labour have got us into.

      By the way, for Kit's benefit, I am a livestock farmer.

    • adam
      Posted November 26, 2008 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      Its not protectionism to encourage members of the public to buy British. It is called marketing.

    • Stuart Elsom
      Posted December 11, 2008 at 12:01 am | Permalink

      The British consumer needs to be made aware that at the present time British manufacturing is starting to come back into it's own. With the rising costs of imports, coupled with the exchange rate problems the increases on costs of many British made products are much less than those coming in from abroad.

      At our factory, Bulldog Tools in Wigan, we are proud to be the last remaining forge still forging spades and forks for the Uk and export market. You are correct in your comment about marketing. It is however down to the British firms to stand together and be heard.

  2. rugfish
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The French had no trouble 'not buying British beef' I recall, so I think the precedent has been set here already.

    British goods should be emblazoned with our national emblem as where they were made would be clearer to consumers and surely that is a reason to stick a flag on our British bacon.

    The EU can make no contest of our wanting to ensure the British public are not misled but going by the utter lies over the Lisbon Treaty I still think they'd come up with some more lies to ban us from being British.

  3. evil g
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    It's outrageous that food producers can't put the Union flag on their produce.

    And when I see adverts on TV where they say "Produce of the EU"…

    This is what's wrong with the EU. They ban bendy bananas, and we can't change the rules, because the whole system is corrupt and beyond the democratic reaches od the people.

  4. Roger Thornhill
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    " why can’t our Ministers recommend that we buy British?"

    Simple – because their employers, the EU, would not like it.

  5. mikestallard
    Posted November 26, 2008 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    The EU is still what is has always been – a Franco-German pact. We English are there like "useful idiots".
    I have seen, in San Pedro, Spain, the tiny little codlings laid out in Mercadonna: meanwhile, I read in Christopher Booker in the Telegraph, how a Scottish fisherman actually refuses to throw back good food into the sea and brings it home as a present for old people. I have seen the tuna fleet go out into Moroccan waters to syphon off the fish: that, too, is defended today. I notice that, yesterday, the French agricultural minister, has refused to countenance reform of the Common Agricultural Policy or to give any leeway to developing economies in the third world. I notice that the mad, mad drive for eco fuels and wind farms is to plough on regardless until 15% of our energy comes from "renewables" (I wonder if they are also in control of the wind?) It is a totally mad world out there.
    Poor David Eyles must be still rueing the day he lost his entire herd unnecessarily in the appallingly mismanaged crises of the 90s (managed, I think, from Brussels in kilometres?)
    President Sarkozy and Angela Merkel ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves dictating world policy without lifting a finger to help, or providing one soldier who is prepared to defend their cause.

    • David Eyles
      Posted November 27, 2008 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Mike: I suspect that you have the wrong David Eyles here. For the record, we started farming in 1998 and our herd of Traditional Herefords are still with us – at least until our next TB test in January, when anything could happen.

      However, you are correct to point out a couple of the insanities of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy. That reform you mentioned was the precondition for Tony Blair's swansong concession of a big chunk of our EU rebate. Now that the French are in the process of dishonouring it, will we get all of our rebate back? I doubt it.

      • mikestallard
        Posted November 27, 2008 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        Maybe Margaret Becket (sp?) will fix it for you like she did when she was the relevant minister?

  6. Giuliano Mennella
    Posted December 8, 2008 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    I expect all your readers will be interested to know that a site fully dedicated to "buy British" has just been launched and it can be seen, live and kicking, on the address: http://WWW.BUYBRITISH.COM.

    Already more than 1,000 companies are listed on the site, and the site grows every day.

    Just click on it and you will be offered a wide range of British products, selected by categories.

    Interesting discounts available every day!

    Come on! Put your money where your mouth is and buy British now!

    Giuliano & Richard

  7. John Goodbody
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    We should pass a law that makes it compulsary to make it clear where every product has been made/grown etc so consumers can make an informed choice. Products have every other piece of information on it and then simply say 'Distributed by X retailer and their address. Even decent retailers like John Lewis have been dropping the country of origin off their tags/ labels.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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