Truss and Sunak ONE USE

Source: Alamy

When asked whether Brexit was to blame for the latest cross-Channel chaos, both candidates gave the same resounding ‘no’

What next? ‘Ready for Rishi’ or ‘Liz for Leader’? Up to now, most attention has focused on the differences between them. From how far and how fast to cut taxes, through to education and backstories, and the cost of their clothes and accessories.

But it is arguably where they agree with each other that may be a bigger worry for the food industry – notably in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol and purging EU legislation from the UK statute book.

The starkest example of this was in this week’s head-to-head television debate, in their one-word answers to the question: was Brexit was to blame for the latest cross-Channel chaos? Both gave the same resounding ‘no’, at a speed that would have put most quiz contestants to shame.

It is that casual disregard for the consequences of leaving the EU that is also at the heart of the continuing impasse over how to square the circle of being outside the single market and the customs union without the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Liz Truss seems to believe she has already solved this. Either the EU accepts her new approach, or the UK enacts it unilaterally using the powers in the Protocol Bill. Job done. Rishi agrees with Liz.

Both also want their respective bonfires of EU red tape to cut costs and unleash a surge in growth. But, according to the Financial Times, Defra estimates the replacement national scheme for the EU Reach system for the approval and registration of chemicals will end up doubling what British companies previously had to pay.

Even if future UK-specific animal and plant health measures and food safety rules were to prove cheaper and easier to operate, the simple act of diverging from long-established EU standards is hardly going to facilitate trade with our nearest and largest customers and suppliers, let alone the task of negotiating new sets of equivalence provisions in other deals.

Doubling down increases risk as well as reward, as any gambler knows. The fact that a leadership contest is taking place at all should be testimony to the dangers of that.

On which note, but for different reasons, it is time for me to take my leave from 18 enjoyable months of contributing to this guest column, as I prepare to say farewell to the PTF.

Hasta la vista, as the saying goes.