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Policy analysis indicates health-sensitive trade and subsidy reforms are needed in the UK to avoid adverse dietary health impacts post-Brexit

The United Kingdom’s food system will be greatly impacted by Brexit-related trade deals and policy developments—with implications for dietary risk factors and public health. Here we use an integrated economic–health modelling framework to analyse the impacts of different policy approaches to Brexit. A ‘soft Brexit’ that is in line with the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement increases diet-related mortality in the United Kingdom as costs for health-promoting and import-dependent foods increase and their consumption decreases. Negotiating free-trade agreements with the United States and Commonwealth countries as part of a ‘global Britain’ approach could triple the negative health impacts of Brexit as greater availability of energy-dense foods increases weight-related risks without meaningfully reducing dietary risks. Eliminating import tariffs on health-sensitive horticultural products could mitigate the negative health impacts of Brexit, and reforming agricultural subsidies to incentivize greater domestic horticultural production could lead to net health gains. Combining these health-sensitive approaches to trade policy and subsidy reform doubled the health gains, offering a promising approach for mitigating the detrimental impacts Brexit could have on dietary health in the United Kingdom.

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