/ Money

Concerns grow over Brexit, food prices and the pound


Our latest research reveals that the public are growing increasingly concerned about the impact of leaving the EU. As such, we want to know, what are your Brexit concerns and what do you think the benefits of Brexit could be?

In the weeks following the vote, Which? gave advice about people’s finances and their questions about holidays. In fact, the main point that we consistently made was that nothing has yet changed, apart from the clear and well reported hit to the pound caused by uncertainty in the markets.

Navigating change

The referendum result has had an impact on me both personally and professionally. I’ve lived in Brussels for over 15 years – I got married there, had a baby there and have spent my professional life working to influence EU policy across a range of subjects.

As a British citizen abroad, I’ve become one of the ‘bargaining chips’ with an uncertain future.

But, what hasn’t changed is that the EU continues to have a major role in UK policy and as such my day-to-day work continues. I still spend my days meeting political stakeholders, representing Which? for UK consumers on a European Commission expert panel and highlighting their needs in relation to specific policy.

I also meet with elected officials, the infamous MEPs in the European Parliament. The UK has 73 MEPs working across a variety of issues, so we provide input and examples where the UK is doing good work.

But, what has changed is the amount of focus we’re now placing on ensuring the best possible outcome for UK consumers.

And, this is where hearing from you is key to making sure we’re getting it right. Our research in particular is a really important tool for us as it helps us to tell political stakeholders what consumers are most concerned about. Our latest research shows nearly half of people (47%) are worried about the impact of Brexit. This is an 8% rise since our September survey.

In fact, we found that people are increasingly worried about the price of food (58%), the value of sterling (53%) and the price of holidays (39%).

Addressing concerns

We’ve found that there are concerns about how effectively consumers will be represented during the negotiations, and that’s where Which? comes in – we’re doing our best to push for the government to place consumers at the heart of its negotiations and to set out how they will champion consumers’ interests.

In addition to discussions we’ve been having with our members, we’ve been working behind the scenes to assess how legislation will be affected, ramping up intelligence gathering and looking at how different sectors such as energy, transport, food and financial services could change for consumers.

As well as the areas we campaign in, as you can imagine, there are many other areas that we haven’t previously focused, mainly because the EU was somewhat of a secondary safety net/backstop.

Getting your voice heard

In the coming months, we want to see assurances that existing consumer rights, such as rules on mobile roaming or flight compensation, and protections, such as food and product safety, will not be watered down. And we also want to see the Government setting out how consumers will benefit as we start to forge new relationships outside of the EU.​

​These assurances are critical because consumer confidence​ is critical to the UK economy. And this is why ​putting consumer needs ​at the centre of the negotiations ​is critical for the UK.

As we continue to form our position on a number of issues related to Brexit, we’re keen to hear from you what you think it’s important for us to focus on. Do you agree with the findings of our survey? Is there anything that you think is missing?

Nigel Wickenden says:
17 December 2016

I voted out in the belief that we would be in for a rough ride to start with. We do not need to invoke Article 50, we can just leave and revert to WTO rules and tariffs. The Pound has dropped enough to allow our exporters to continue selling to the continent and still make a profit while sticking to the EU’s regulations. We can also trade with all other countries unencumbered by EU rules. I voted out because the EU is a flawed institution and TPTB there refuse to acknowledge their faults. I want us to be in a United States of Europe but it must be fair to everybody and fully accountable to voters. The recent vote in Italy shows that there is disquiet elsewhere too. I expect that the French vote next year will be a really close run thing and Ms LePen may actually win. Then there’s elections coming up in Germany too. The way things are going, there may not be an EU to negotiate with when we do eventually invoke Article 50. We need immigrants with the best skills so that our economy can continue to grow. This means we should be choosing from the whole world and not being restricted to EU citizens. What we do not need are convicted criminals from Europe. Business needs certainty to plan ahead and know how to invest for the future. This can not be done while our government dithers about.

Sorry, we do need to invoke Article 50. At present we are bound to the EU by a network of treaty and financial obligations. No, we can’t rip them up. Is it seriously a good idea to start breaking international obligations and treaties? And even if we were prepared to start along this dangerous road, would it be sensible to further offend our 27 nearest neighbours, biggest current trading partners, and best allies? Because that is what the EU countries are, whether Brexiteers like it or not.

It seems to have been overlooked by some that most of the problems we live with today, banking collapse crisis 2008, fluctuations in the value of the pound, the appalling proliferation of zero hours contracts, the collapse of order in the prisons, Ambulances queuing outside A&E , never ending Austerity. All the aforementioned, and more were created whilst being members of the EU. What is there to miss in leaving this shambolic organisation? We should embrace the opportunity afforded by this once in a lifetime liberation.

Yes, we have problems- but the last four you mention are nothing to do with the EU but are direct consequences of our Government’s policies. Without a change in domestic policy they will be the same in or out of the EU. However if our Government spends the next ten years mired in Brexit it is far less likely to be able to tackle these very real problems.

Unlike most of your commentators, I’m very worried!
As you say, sterling has fallen-no sign that it’s likely to improve- so this will make most things more expensive.
Holidays: much more expensive because of sterling fall, also in due course having to buy a visa, plus comprehensive health insurance (I’m a retired doctor; I know healthcare and hence private insurance is very expensive!). Also citizens of the EU can get free entry to museums, art galleries etc- certainly in Spain and I believe in other European countries too.
Consumer rights, food safety etc- could “Which” do an article on how much of this is based on EU regs? I have seen suggestions that outside the EU safety net, (if we for example signed a trade deal with the US), we would have to accept their lower food and consumer safety standards.
How much of our food comes from Europe? Would even our basic food supplies be at risk in a hard Brexit?
Can “Which” discuss the issues around food supply, again once outside the “safety net” of the EU?
Perhaps you could also talk about the issues for both consumer goods produced in the UK and needing to be exported to the EU and vice versa- the issues of supply chains extending across Europe and the “rules of origin” regulations.
Also perhaps the issues for consumers if the City loses financial passporting- even if it’s only the consequences of the loss of tax revenue!

Todor Milcheliev says:
17 December 2016

Just now you are asking the questions. Not when the vote was. We have a saying in my country which roughly translates: “Hood after the rain”. You did not want to pay to the EU, but you want everything else. You are worried about your food, health, travel insurances, other trading problems. Well I’m too worried for trading purposes, as most of the major car manufacturers are in Britain. Some heavy duty machines too. A lot of consumer products are coming from your country as they are cheaper there. So not only you will suffer from Brexit but other EU countries will suffer too. But still, WHY are you now asking those questions?

Why should we need to buy a visa to visit EU countries when we leave? Before we joined what was to become the EU we didn’t need visas, just our passports, as we do now to visit European countries outside the EU. We should just revert back to that situation. If what’s left of the EU imposes visas then we impose them on their visitors to the UK too. As for holidays being dearer they might be a little because of the sterling fall but the value of the pound is always changing. It may well go up in the future. Also the EU isn’t the only places British people go for holidays. There is a big world out there beyond the EU.

You say a lot of consumer products are cheaper from the UK so why are you worried? There’ll only be tariffs put on if your EU put tariffs on.

So much ill-informed assertion, signed off with the declaration that it is fact. It’s a very sad state of affairs. There’s no £350 million a week to spend, no free lunch of tearing up regulation, precious little sign of rapid free trade deals and no evident sign of any of our major institutions being either ready for or confident about the Brexit process and the post-Brexit economic climate. Which could very usefully help to promote reasoned debate, but I fear we may be beyond that and into a shouty blame game when we can’t have all the wonderful things that were promised. As which often tells us, Best Buys sometimes come at a higher cost than Don’t Buys, but I’m sure all Don’t Buys make very plausible claims to attract your cash… If Which could dig into what Brexit will mean for consumers (of food, electronics, cars and other consumer goods), it might help to encourage some sensible discussion instead of tribal ranting.

I think many companies , stores, etc are using the falling pound as an excuse to put prices up. I checked the rate just yesterday 17/02/2016 and it was 1.195 Euros to the pound. A sign that it’s rising close to pre-Brexit rates.
They’ve already increased tor some things such as electrical goods
You don’t hear them now saying that they will leave prices alone
Today’s rates and petrol prices are pretty well as they were a couple of years ago
Maybe with the exception of the US Dollar which is high not just for us but for the EU and most other countries.
A suggestion for consumers
Fight back by buying second hand where possible. I just bought a Humax PVR for a third of the latest one which I was keen on. I can get by without the bells and whistles

I voted to remain, however the majority voted out, so I respect the decision and have no issue. What I do mind is the scaremongering by the many professional and other ranks who have no logical idea what will happen in the next two years, yet they gripe, whinge and whine with tales of woe? All they help do is cause despair and despondency. please why can’t we all pull together, respect the exit verdict, have faith and support our country in our passage through the Brexit portal. Time will see us triumph, just as we have always done.

There are too many unelected people and organisations trying to thwart our democratic choice to leave the EU and constantly snipe and caution against it. Personally, my vote for exiting the EU had nothing to do with consumer prices or consumer protection, or consumer anything. I prize the freedom to control our own borders and to expel undesirables as more important than belonging to a European Federation which stifles our freedoms at every turn. And yes, far more important than the price of a washing machine or car or even a bag of chips. Your campaign is therefore of no more interest to me politically or as a consumer, as are Mr Macs accusations of bigotry by the English when in fact many of his countrymen practice relentless bigotry against the English, and always will, whatever we do for them. We are bound to see changes in pricing in many areas. Project Fear couldn’t change my mind before the vote and your campaign will not change my mind after the vote to leave. However, when taken alongside all the other anti-brexit sniping, your campaign could have a detrimental affect on the terms of exit – but will not affect the fact that we will exit. With this in mind, you should make sure that your campaign does not become political and does not contribute to getting us a worse deal than we would otherwise achieve. Your members will not thank you if it does have such an effect. In my opinion you will lose more members than you gain should that happen. I mention this because your invitation to comment and have my voice heard seemed more like an opportunity to express your own views than to solicit mine. Forgive me if I am mistaken, but the only buttons at the bottom of your email were designed to take us deeper into the aspects of your argument rather than to invite disagreement with your stand. You have a cross-section of members, we are not all bremoaners, and you would do well to remember that for any future communications, on this topic particularly.

Hi Tony, thanks for your feedback. We’ve opened this discussion to share our insight from our Consumer Insight Tracker, and have asked whether there are any particular concerns people may have as consumers that they would like to raise with us. We’d like to hear about any consumer concerns that you may have to help inform our position, so if you do have Brexit consumer concerns (such as energy or food prices) please do share them with us. Thanks

Tony – I don’t recognise any form of campaign being waged by Which? here. This is just a discussion to which anyone can contribute on the consumer angles [which I note don’t interest you] arising from the public vote and consequent government policy. There is a diverse range of views in this Conversation but I don’t get any sense of a prevailing viewpoint in either direction [unless repetition counts for anything].

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I personally believe the EU will fraction within 3 years , first Italy will leave the Euro currency and go back to the Lira, follwed by Spain, Greece and Portugal; and within 5 yeatrs they will like us in the Uk and Greenland actually leave the EU! That is my prophecy! Hail the prophecier! The EU is a monster with a curved tail! Big is not beautiful it is awkward slow to change and move with the wind.. we in UK are the inheritors of risk and piracy on the ocean waves as well as in cities and land. Let us follow the Swiss and cut our taxes , spread efficiency by all means and welcome change and independence from this monster EU setup, after all it was the facists in 1943 who thought of it and set it up..

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Hello, can I please remind everyone that comments need to be related to the above article and so should be about consumer concerns around Brexit, rather than about the referendum itself. We’re really keen to hear about any concerns that you may (or may not) have about Brexit.

Also comments must be aligned with our community guidelines, any comments which breach our rules – such as being off-topic or rude and offensive to others – may be edited or removed from the thread. Thank you

I didn’t include immigration as a concern when I voted in the referendum. In principle I welcome free movement of people in both directions. The point I ask is why people should want to come to the UK. We should ensure that we do not make it artificially attractive by offering, for example, benefits to those who have no intention of contributing to the UK economy. Maybe immigration would then be more self regulating.

I maintain that whatever official posturing takes place in the EU by the political children, if Britain has value to other countries then it will succeed. “Big Business” should see to that.

I think a falling pound is going to make us all worse off in the sort-term, at least as far as spending power is concerned.

But I also think that most of the reason for the falling pound comes from the uncertainties about what Brexit will really mean. Hence the sooner we get on with it and get it done, the sooner the pound will have a chance to settle at a realistic level.

I totally agree Derek. While our position in the EU is uncertain, other countries financial view of us will be uncertain, and that leads to pressure on the currency. It helps our exporters; if it reduces the amount we import so much the better. Fracking might eventually help by reducing gas imports, using more home-grown food could help, wouldn’t harm to take holidays at home……… We can regard it as an opportunity. Eventually the value of our currency will reflect our financial strength, or otherwise. UK manufacturing is a key element and we can do more to help it grow when freed from EU rules.

The problem is not Brexit it is the delays. Get on with it. Forget Hard and Soft. The sooner we are out the sooner we can get our act together and trade with who we want, when we want and how we want. The EU red tape is stiffling our economy. We are one of the EU’s biggest customers. They need us. If they make things difficult we should do the same. I was one of the biggest supporters of the common Market but do not support a United States of Europe governed by a bunch of unelected, narrow minded, bureaucratic politicians who cannot account for how their budget has been spent or balance their accounts and a parliament which is little more than a house of puppets who can only advise and recommend but have little effective power. Ask the population of Greece what the EU has done for them but they are in so deep they cannot afford to stay but cannot afford to quit either. The sooner we get out the better.

Those who voted to leave are now getting their comeuppance – and the rest of us are being dragged down with them. At 52 to 48, the vote to leave was marginal – and I’m sure a significant number of those who were taken in by the lies perpetrated by Farage et. al. would vote the other way now if given the opportunity. Now Trump and Putin are making bellicose noises about nuclear arsenals, we need to stick together even more.

All this dithering is making matters even worse: if we’re not too careful we’ll fall between two stools big time.

Airstrip One, anyone?

The vote was a majority whatever you say and should be accepted by the “remoaners”. What we need now is to get out of the EU as soon as we can.

But it wasn’t a majority of the electorate – not even close. And calling those who disagree with you as ‘remoaners’ isn’t very nice, is it?

The ‘winners’ seem to be be doing most of the moaning at the moment. As someone who voted to remain, I am quite content with the outcome of the referendum and hope it will be implemented in a sensible manner without prejudicing our negotiating position and in accordance with our national laws and international obligations. I am not sure everyone who voted to leave had exactly the same idea of the destination or the timetable. To get from where we were on referendum day to where we need to be in order to make a success of the Brexit negotiations in just over nine months will be a remarkable achievement and then two years later we shall be out.

It is almost inevitable, and was never denied during the campaign, that there would be an impact on consumers, such as the price of goods sourced from Europe and the cost of continental holidays [there are alternatives]. We don’t have to tear up the beneficial regulations on trade and consumer rights that originated from the EU and we can ignore or discard the rest if it suits us. I think the way to get the reluctant leavers on board is to develop sensible and realistic arguments and and use facts rather than prejudices to demonstrate that there is a good way forward. There is no place in that scenario for divisive language or intolerance. We need the UK’s best brains to work on this and there seems to be little point in alienating any who put their cross in a different box six months ago.

It was a majority of the electorate who decided to vote. Those who choose not to vote also choose, by default, to accept the majority decision of those who did vote.

But it wasn’t a majority of the electorate, was it?

[This comment has been removed for being rude/offensive as per our community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]

cossy says:
16 January 2017

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I was watching Bargain Hunt and missed all this excitement. How frustrating.

If we want suitable posts, should all contributors have to register with an email address? It has been raised many times and would it in any way detract from genuine contributions to Convos?

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It doesn’t look like a hard Brexit to me. It seems that the people who voted to leave are getting what they asked for, and that what they were told would happen is starting to happen. Those who wanted to remain didn’t do enough to address the real issues and failed to attract enough support for staying in the EU. I think the pollsters and media should stop trying to prove the country is fatally divided, and that we should all work together to pull ourselves through this period of uncertainty. As a Remain voter, I am disappointed that there are others who think we can somehow drag our feet on the details and it won’t happen. There is a set timescale, and now there is a plan, so let’s just move forward in that direction and make the best of it. I cannot imagine consumers would be better served by any other course of action. The more that people try to block the exit the harder things will get for themselves.

Why would I put credence on a SKY poll?
It was not the government who chose to leave the EU but the majority of the UK people who voted in the referendum. EU countries need to remember that and respect our free will. Politicians will understand the reality of life, and in the end negotiate accordingly. The world is not run by politicians but by business – trade – and their interests will determine the terms on which it will happen because healthy economies are what matter.
If the UK has something the rest of the world want – products, services – they will still want it whether we are part of the EU are not. What we must do is ensure we develop those “wants” by encouraging and supporting those who provide them.

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I hope I am not wrong but I think we are doing that, Duncan – we have more start-ups, innovators and entrepreneurs developing the products and services that we and the world will want tomorrow. We have enough left of the old smokestack industries and the white heat of technology that we remember from our earlier days to continue to flourish but this is coupled now with scientific research and development from other sources within the UK that some of the older manufacturing industries failed to cultivate and sometimes regarded with disdain. We now need to forge this talent and intelligence with the processes of production.

We have suffered from the abandonment of aged infrastructure in the name of environmental improvement, but they are not incompatible; we are now committing environmental crime in the form of long-distance transportation and the extraction of materials from vulnerable places whereas we have great resources on our doorstep which we have the capability and sensitivity to exploit safely and beneficially.

Our future must be linked to replacing imports with home-produced goods that will also be good enough to export to nearby countries, and to developing services in education, medicine, finance, the media and other high-skill areas that can be transferred around the world with little environmental impact but great benefit to other countries who are looking for the quality UK product. The pursuit of quality in both goods and services will command a premium price and give us greater prosperity. In this modern world we need to start being a bit more Victorian!

I have to say this does mean a complete reversal of the prevailing commercial culture so that instead of selling-off our businesses to international conglomerates for short-term profits we need to consolidate at home and rebuild our presence overseas.

One of the problems I had with the EU – but it is a consequence of being part of a group – was our inability to favour UK companies when it came to the awarding of public contracts above a threshold value. The UK generally plays by the rule book unlike some other more devious countries (in my view) and I believe has lost out. When we can look once again at protecting our national interest rather than subsidising other European countries I believe we will be better off. It may just take a little time.

February Which? reports that research shows 47% of people are worried about the effect of the UK leaving the EU. 48% of those who voted wanted to remain. Is that 47% so surprising?

Claire R says:
3 March 2017

I cannot remember who wrote that if you were to die in Spain or anywhere else in the EU. countries, one would have to pay a small fortune to bring the body home. My husband and I have decided if that should happen we would be cremated abroad and either inter the ashes where we had just enjoyed a holiday or bring them home. Perhaps it may stop some people from worrying too much.

J Wright says:
3 March 2017

As a pensioner I am concerned about my finances.

Leaving the EU will be a disaster
With a chump as President in the USA Britain will be
in “Brisolation”.

Much of the comment has little to do with the impact of Brexit directly on households in economic terms. Surely that is most apposite.
My expectation as a former UK trade negotiator is that prices will drop overall. High EU agricultural tariffs designed to protect French farmers increase the food basket. When we can again fix our own tariffs (almost certainly lower) we will be able once more to buy on the World market. Similarly onice Japanese car manufacturers in the UK no longer have to pay tariffs on their components from outside the EU, car prices should reduce. German and French cars will need to match to remain competitive.
Labour shortages in such areas as crop picking can be dealt with by Swiss style work permits if our indigenous population cannot cope.
Much of the negativity on Brexit is a hangover from Osborne’s scare tactics, still being mouthed by Remoaners- particularly in the BBC and other London based media. The future is bright we are part of the World again instead of part of Fortress Europe!