2023-06-17 - Liz Webster on TalkTV

Written by Gully Foyle. Like this article? You can get Gully a beer here.

On Saturday 17th June, the founder of "Save British Food", the former Liberal Democrat candidate and Rejoin EU campaigner Liz Webster was interviewed by Talk TV host Kevin O'Sullivan.

The intended topic was the recent news story that the EU intends to increase the minimum amount of fruit required in jam or marmalade, in order for the product to be sold in the EU as jam or marmalade.

The interview went off piste very quickly, and was somewhat devoid of any meaningful content throughout - but I have picked out some of the choice "facts" given by Liz Webster during the interview, in order to check their validity.

Fact or Fiction

1: "It was always the case that in leaving a club that we were a member of, that we had a vote on those laws, then we lost sovereignty"

Sovereignty refers to the authority of a state or country to govern itself. Being a member of a political union such as the EU requires powers to legislate that would normally sit with the government of the day, to be controlled centrally by the union itself. Leaving the EU returned those powers back to the UK government. So it is literally impossible for leaving the EU to result in the loss of sovereignty. FACT CHECK - FALSE

2: "In leaving that club, we have no control over what comes [as regards changes to EU rules like fruit content levels in jam]"

This is absolutely the case - in leaving the EU, the UK no longer has a say in the rules that the EU mandates for its members and citizens - nor should it do. The same can be said in the other direction as well of course, in that the EU no longer has a say in the rules that the UK mandates for its citizens (Windsor Framework and NI not withstanding). FACT CHECK - TRUE

3: "Ultimately having less sugar in jam is a good thing [in reference to the new EU rules on jam content]"

Though not the intention of the proposed changes in EU rules (as they are only proposals right now, nothing has been decided), the end result would be that to increase the percentage of fruit, the percentage of sugar would need to reduce. Good for fruit growers, bad for sugar producers, bad for jam manufacturers. FACT CHECK - ON THE FENCE

4: "[British farmers have] lost free trade with our biggest market"

This is simply not true. The UK and EU agreed, signed and ratified a zero tariff and zero quota Free Trade Agreement. There are no tariffs at all which apply to UK exports to the EU. The only goods exported from the UK to the EU which would receive tariffs, would be those not eligible for inclusion in the FTA as they are not deemed as from the UK (so imports from China for example). FACT CHECK - FALSE

5: "[The EU] provide just under half the food that we eat"

Again this is simply not true. Around 46% of the food consumed in the UK in 2020 was sourced internationally, and of that 46% that was imported, the EU provided just over half. So all in all, EU exporters provided around a quarter of UK food in 2020, not half. FACT CHECK - FALSE 

6: "France is the biggest jam producer"

Yes this is absolutely the case - France is the largest EU producer of jams and fruit spreads - and so its producers will be the most affected by new mandates from the EU regarding what can and cannot be considered and marketed as a jam. FACT CHECK - TRUE

7: "We can't leave [the EU] as we rely on them for food"

As already covered above, around a quarter of UK food consumed each year comes from the EU. That is not a reliance on the EU, as the vast majority of food comes from either domestic sources or non-EU sources. FACT CHECK - FALSE

8: "Winston Churchill said actually, just after the war, 30 million people living on an island where we produce enough food for say 15 million, is a spectacle of majesty and security this country can ill afford"

I cannot find a direct source for Winston Churchill having actually said this - I can only find reference to the NFU president Lord Plumb, saying that Winston Churchill said it. In fact it looks as though Liz was reading the quote from Lord Plumb verbatim. FACT CHECK - ON THE FENCE

9: "Food security is a very serious matter and Brexit tore our food security apart"

Food security comes from having a sufficiently high domestic production, as well as a diverse range of trusted suppliers. Having 25% of our food supply coming from what is effectively a single supplier, is not having food security. Diversifying away from the EU and including additional countries as major suppliers increases food security, not deceases. As DEFRA stated in their food security report, "Overreliance on one geographical area and dependence on particular supply sources makes food supply more vulnerable, while diversity of sources makes it more resilient" FACT CHECK - FALSE

Final Score for Liz Webster on the Fact Check O'Meter - 56% Wrong, 22% Right, 22% Undecided

Gully Foyle is a prolific commentator on international trade and post-Brexit UK trade policy, and can be found on Twitter here.

Like this article? You can get Gully a beer here.

Full Transcript

KOS: We're gonna move on briefly now, to talk about jam making and marmalade making and jelly making. Erm basically, do you remember all these bendy banana dictats and all that - they do have all these mad rules and regulations - they've tried to change the goalposts as i understand it in terms of the content - how much fruit - is in jam, marmalade, british made jelly, all of that. Apparently we don't put enough in as far as the EU is concerned.

JJA: Thats fair enough isn't it

KOS: Yeah well theyve suddenly said this, so British manufacturers are not meeting the required criteria and its causing chaos - so it sounds like a story from the past when we were still in the EU, but lets talk to the founder of Save British Food  - shes campaigning against current agriculture and trade bills, her name is Liz Webster, hello Liz

LK: Hello, good afternoon

KOS: Thanks for joining us - this is sounding like a return to the old days where we used to have these kind of rows, as I understand it I was just explaining it, basically the EU suddenly upped the amount of fruit that its going to require British jam and marmalade and the like to contain, and this could be pretty disastrous for British manufacturers - tell us whats going on

LK: Well look, the EU is led by decisions which are made in the EU Parliament, and theyre driven to drive up standards - but it was always the case that in leaving the club that we were a member of, that we had a vote on those laws, then we lost sovereignty - you know its a bit like Tasmania leaving Australia, deciding to trade with Britain, thats what we are trying to do. It doesn't make any sense. Its bonkers. And in leaving that club, we've got no control over what comes, so not liking the rules that come through was never a good reason to leave - but ultimately having less sugar in jam is a very good thing, because of obesity as we all know is a crisis, and our issue and being out of the EU has been catastrophic for farming, we've lost our subsidy, we've lost our labour, and we've lost free trade with our biggest market. Thats the big problem.

KOS: Whats the solution to this then Liz. That we rejoin?

LW: Well the solution for food absolutely is that we need to free up trade with our biggest market again. The government have failed to ensure that British food is actually being produced, or enough of it is being produced, and there are new import checks that are going to come in, for goods from Europe, which is good in one way because we've been disadvantaged as British farmers in that we've had the red tape and our European competitors have not. But what this means is that because British food is largely collapsed, it means that we're going into a winter of food crises, which will mean inflation soars even further and food shortages get greater. So its good that we're talking about jam, and focusing on food, and focusing on Europe because we need Europe to feed us - they provide you know just under half the food that we eat.

KOS: Wait a second though Liz - I mean, they're changing the goalposts, why are they doing this. Why are they suddenly saying you've gotta have more fruit in - is it because they want to punish us from Brexit isn't it

LW: [laughs] No, thats nonsense

KOS: Then why are they suddenly saying it

LW: Because they're actually looking after their citizens - you know the rules in the EU are about protecting citizens

KOS: What about our citizens?

LW: Well we should care about our citizens, i'm delighted as I said that there is a drive to up standards, to do something and fight obesity, I mean surely you've seen that problem

KOS: Yeah but this is all, wait a second, this is gonna cause horror for British manufacturers

LW: We are dealing with Brexit - that is a horror show. I mean just ask [indecipherable] who is trying to export to the EU

KOS: Well we'd better get used to it

LW: But why? I mean we are trying to get used to it, the people who have really suffered are the smaller producers who export, and a lot of them have even moved to Europe or they've gone bust

KOS: Yeah and this is terrible for smaller producers - this is classic Brussels punishing smaller producers in Britain because of Brexit, isn't it?

LW: Not its not, that is just not understanding how the club works.

KOS: why have they suddenly done this

LW: Because they exist to make their...

KOS: No no no, they've done it to screw Britain up. To screw up British jam manufacturers. They're being deliberately difficult like they always were and always will be

LW: That is ludicrous - because ultimately...

KOS: Then why have they done it then

LW: France is the biggest jam producer, so why do they care about British jam producers when we left the European Union. So whats your problem?

KOS: Why have they done it now?

LW: Because they're carrying on with life, which is about looking after their citizens and fighting obesity

KOS: Which is about punishing Britain for Brexit. I don't know what...why...what has obesity in Brussels got to do with Britain, why are we supposed to respect that

LW: We can't pick up Britain, and move ourselves to the Pacific. We are in Europe, we're part of Europe

KOS: No we're not. We left.

LW: But you're moaning about what they're doing, so we haven't left, and we can't leave because we rely on them for food - and this is the circle you can't square, or the square you can't circle, whichever way around you want to put it...

KOS: Do you want to be in chains THIS much to Brussels? Oh we rely on them for our food, we need them...is this really how you wanna live your live Liz?

LW: This is the reality ok? Winston Churchill said actually, just after the war, 30 million people living on an island where we produce enough food for say 15 million, is a spectacle of majesty and security this country can ill afford. Food security is a very serious matter and Brexit tore our food security apart. Our government was negligent, it has not looked after our food production here, and we're left very food insecure. So we face a choice ok...

KOS: Who you voting for in the next election liz?

LW: ...either stop moaning about Brexit and what it meant, or we actually face a food crisis and soaring hyperinflation as we go into this next winter. Thats the real choice.

KOS: ...and we take on a subserviant role to Brussels...we take on a subserviant role as we need them to feed us...

LW: Brexit...Brexit meant us losing our sovereignty and becoming more subserviant to Brussels, yes. Reality is, they're a much bigger market than us. Size matters. They're next to us. We need  them to feed us - and thats the reality! Thats what Brexit means!

KOS: [laughs] No we don't...

LW: So where do you think we should get our food from?

KOS: We don't need them to feed us, honestly Liz...

LW: So whos gonna feed us then, Australia?

KOS: I mean, you're like...what is the matter with you? Show a bit of independent spirit!

LW: [laughs] Independent spirit...well when you're hungry, give me a call, and we'll have a chat about the fact that you can't buy anything...pasta...

KOS: No ones ever gonna be hungry...no ones ever gonna be hungry in this country, and no one is ever going to have to worry about, should ever have to worry about the idiots in Brussels changing their rules just to screw us up, because of Brexit - its obvious

LW: Do you really believe that in the EU parliament they sit there going "oh what can we do now to actually annoy Britain"...

KOS: Yeah I do believe that yeah, yeah I do

LW: [laughs] Its a shame, its a shame that you won't put the time in to try understanding this

KOS: Liz, escape from the shackles of your chains, fly free, be independent, don't worry - we can survive without Brussels!

LW: As food producers...

KOS: We can make it Liz! I know we can!

LW: As food producers we are completely and utterly dealing with the reality of Brexit - many farms are going bust, our food is shrinking like tomorrow, its not a joke

KOS: Yeah - well I could rejoin eh? Lets rejoin shall we?

LW: Well when we're hungry, and polls are already showing...

KOS: What about the majority of people who voted to leave. What about them.

LW: Well that was seven years ago. Seven years ago.

KOS: Oh well lets forget it then!

LW: Even Nigel Farage, even Nigel Farage has said...

KOS: Oh God...

LW: ...that Brexit has failed. Boris Johnson has actually been...

KOS: ...its because we haven't done it properly...

LW: Boris Johnson has left the political arena in complete disgrace, he lied like no tomorrow, Brexit is on a bed of lies, everything about it has been destroyed...

KOS: I didn't get you on to give me a Labour Party political broadcast...

LW: I'm not giving you a Labour Party political broadcast...

KOS: Liz i've gotta move on, good luck with your friend Keir Starmer or your European Front, you go over to Brussels and you bow down to them and say "please can I have some food...", "please can I have more please...", but good to talk to you Liz, thank you very much

KOS: That was Liz Webster, euro fanatic [laughs]


1: Telegraph Article from 10 June 2023 "EU Breakfast Directives Mean UK Jam Makers Face Recipe Changes" - https://www.telegraph.co.uk/world-news/2023/06/10/uk-jam-makers-face-recipe-changes-eu-breakfast-directives/

2: DEFRA Report from 22 December 2021 "UK Food Security: UK Food Supply Sources" - https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/united-kingdom-food-security-report-2021/united-kingdom-food-security-report-2021-theme-2-uk-food-supply-sources

3: BBC News from 26 November 2008 "Farm Subsidies - A Necessary Evil?" - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7749477.stm

4: TalkTV Kevin O'Sullivan Show from 17 June 2023 (link takes you direct to correct timestamp) - https://www.youtube.com/live/pESnogYxaOU?feature=share&t=5695