Full English Brexit

The Brexit blues

WHAT makes a Cornish pasty legally a Cornish pasty? The requirements are strict. It must be D-shaped, with pastry crimped on one side (never on top). Its filling must include beef, swede, potato and onion, lightly seasoned, appropriately chunky. Finally it must be prepared—though not necessarily baked—in Cornwall. These strictures are enforced under the EU’s protected food-names scheme, which safeguards products made in a traditional fashion, tied to particular locations. Replacing this legal framework will be another tummy ache for those negotiating Brexit.

Britain’s protected foods include such delicacies as Melton Mowbray pork pies (which must use diced or minced uncured pork and exhibit bowed pastry sides) and Arbroath smokies (haddock smoked in a traditional manner no more than 8km from Arbroath Town House on Scotland’s east coast). The EU’s scheme forbids competitors, in the rest of Britain or in other EU member states, from producing knock-offs. After Brexit, that protection will no longer be guaranteed.

Producers are cheesed off at the prospect of losing protection for their products. The Cornish Pasty Association is concerned about the potential impact. It is not alone. Kenneth MacLeod, one of only four butchers who produce Stornoway black pudding, a Scottish blood sausage from the Isle of Lewis, explains that they sought protected status under the EU rules to eliminate inferior copies. Others were cooking up imitations that used pork fat and trimmings—forbidden ingredients in an authentic pudding—and selling it under the Stornoway name. He fears that in the absence of the EU’s guarantees such counterfeits could reappear.

Without the EU’s legal framework, British producers would have to rely on local laws to protect their comestibles at home. Courts have in the past ruled against fraudulent foods, preventing Spanish fizz from being labelled champagne, for example. Scotch whisky was protected by an act of Parliament in 1988. But such an ad hoc system is unlikely to reassure foreign producers and so protection for British products abroad could lapse. Butchers and bakers could turn to the World Trade Organisation for help, but dealing with an international intergovernmental organisation is not easy. Producers are hoping Britain will somehow replicate the current system. But in the midst of complex trade negotiations, pies and pasties may not be a priority.

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