“Everyone will have the food they need” was the unintentionally sinister phrase used by Michael Gove when asked by Andrew Marr yesterday if he was absolutely sure there would be no shortages of fresh food in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Regardless of whether you believe the former Defra secretary – and within 24 hours the BRC, the FDF and others had come out to accuse him of making “categorically untrue” statements – it was hardly the sort of ringing endorsement for Brexit preparations one might have hoped for.

As the canny Gove knows very well, there is a vast difference between need and want. And with some experts already predicting rationing of fresh food in the supermarkets, it will be interesting to see what explanation the Brexit tsar will give if, as many fear, the shelves start running out of everyday fruit & veg come November.

Neither was Gove’s glass half-full approach to the prospect of mounting food prices very reassuring. “Some prices may go up. Other prices will come down,” he said. This was despite the fact that in his previous post Gove had long ago admitted to MPs, when quizzed on the subject, that the UK faces price hikes on many products from Europe.

Yet it is not these answers that will be worrying businesses, which will see through the politics behind them. Of course, Gove was never going to admit we face major food shortages and price rises this week of all weeks, as Tory rebels and the opposition line up to try to kill a no-deal Brexit.

What’s more worrying is the feeling that the UK government might be preparing to shift the blame of the impact of no-deal on to businesses themselves.

The narrative has changed since Boris Johnson became PM and Gove moved to his new role. The message now is very much that government is doing its bit to prepare for a no-deal and that all will be well if businesses follow suit.

Food and drink leaders demand answers to 11 no-deal preparation questions

Yes, it is undoubtedly true that some (in fact probably many) businesses have done very little to prepare, not least after the false alarm of previous deadlines.

But there is also a limit to how much they can do, given the lack of guidance from government.

Gove says that this week he will give more details of the notorious Operation Yellowhammer. This is the much-disputed document he claims contains the “worst scenario” predictions drawn up by the government’s experts about the impact of no-deal.

This is the document that warns that in that scenario, even after three months of chaos, the ports may only return to 50%-70% of capacity.

So what is the best-case scenario? 70%-80%? 80%-90%? 90%-95%?

While he is at it, perhaps Gove will also give more details of that other elusive bird, Operation Kingfisher. This is the bailout plan the government has apparently been drawing up to help companies that risk going bust because of disruption to their supply chains (though that sounds alarmingly similar to the ‘worst case scenario’).

And then there is the long list of unanswered questions. Last week The Grocer revealed the FDF had addressed 50 of them to ministers, focused on what they should be doing to prepare and what arrangements were in place to protect the industry.

Of those, 11 have still be answered at all, including, to name but a few, whether arrivals of ingredients/packaging for just-in-time food and drink production be prioritised, how the government will mitigate disruption at Irish Sea ferry ports and what will happen to limited shelf-life products that can no longer be exported.

These are rather more difficult questions to answer for Mr Gove than those posed by Andrew Marr, so let us hope that when (and if) they eventually come, the answers are rather more convincing.