An analysis of food shopping in Brexit Britain, using official data

Graham Charles Lear
4 min readJun 27, 2022


If food shelves are empty “due to Brexit”, how come we’re now buying 25% more?

Analysed latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, reveal the truth about the “empty food shelves because of Brexit” myth propagated by some on social media. I also provide an example from France of almost empty shelves in a supermarket there.

Empty supermarket shelves? There has been a 25% rise in the sale of Food and tobacco since before the Referendum

Sales of food, drink and tobacco

  • May 2016 £2,656,261 — just before the EU Referendum
  • May 2022 £3,312,568 — a 24.7% increase since the EU Referendum

[Source: Latest ONS official data, released Fri 24 June 2022.]

This is not all because of recent food price inflation

This increase in the value of food shopping cannot be attributed to recent food price inflation, as it has been happening over the last six years — well before the recent hikes in prices. Nevertheless, I should state that inflation is clearly one factor in all of this.

The key point is this: If Britain’s food shelves are empty because of Brexit, how have we all managed:-

  1. Not to starve?
  2. To spend almost 25% more on food, rather than (say) 50% less?
  3. Why aren’t there riots in the streets?

The French Connection — “Let them eat cake”

To the right, I publish an exclusive photo taken last week in a French supermarket. This clearly shows empty shelves. Equally clearly, this has nothing to do with Brexit.

In fact, the French supermarket concerned explained this to their customers in a formal notice:-

“Given the tensions in the market linked to the suspension of exports of certain raw materials from Ukraine, operators in the food sector are faced with supply difficulties leading them to modify their recipes, without the possibility of quickly correcting their packaging.”

The last Queen of France…

Marie Antoinette is alleged famously once to have said “Let them eat cake [brioche]” when told that her peasant subjects were starving. As readers will know, as the wife of Louis XVI (from the age of 14) she was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution of 1789.

In fact, brioche is actually very tasty, but it must have been the simplest form of food Marie Antoinette could imagine at the time.

Whilst the origin of this quote is disputed, readers will get the point. There is a serious problem across Europe with food prices, as a result of the increasing costs of energy and other key elements involved in food production. I explained this in my report yesterday.

Empty shelves? Come on

Firstly, there are always times when — on a particular day — an individual supermarket might have fewer products on certain shelves than usual. This can be down to staff absence, late deliveries, or many other reasons. The same is true in the EU.

Does it matter if Rejoiners spout nonsense on social media about empty food shelves in the UK? Actually, it does. I have seen this being picked up by media in the EU.

It also matters in the United Kingdom. Today the House of Commons will debate the second reading of the Government’s new Bill, limiting the damage done to the UK by the EU’s insistence on its NI Protocol. Labour’s leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has already said that his government will repeal the legislation if he wins the 2024 general election.

I fully anticipate that in the event of a change of government, moves will be made gradually to take the United Kingdom back into the European Union.

It is therefore vital to counteract all myths and hit them on the head before they gain any credibility.

Sources: Office for National Statistics (ONS



Graham Charles Lear

What is life without a little controversy in it? Quite boring and sterile would be my answer.