The claim is:

Brexit: No-deal outcome could force shopping bills up by £800 a year, says union

Tariffs imposed under WTO rules would increase the price of everyday goods such as butter, cheese and potatoes, analysis finds

The cost of a family’s weekly shop could rocket by more than £800 a year if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, a major union has warned.

Analysis for the GMB found that the bill for a typical supermarket basket of goods would increase by £15.61 a week – 17 per cent – if Britain was forced to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules, which require tariffs on many goods.


Under the WTO’s “most favoured nation” rules, the price of a 250g pack of butter would rise by 42p (up 28 per cent). Other increases would include 62p for a 460g block of cheddar(up 29 per cent), 43p for a pack of eight sausages (up 25 per cent), 32p for 2.5kg of potatoes (up 14 per cent) and £2.56 for a bottle of red wine (up 32 per cent), according to Acuity Analysis.

Brexit: No-deal outcome could force shopping bills up by £800 a year, says union, Andrew Woodcock, The Independent, 8 June 2019

Things that make me feel sceptical about this claim:

  • I can't find a website for a research firm named "Acuity Analysis". There is a Twitter feed here which says "Providing unions with high-level strategic analyses to strengthen workplace democracy and enhance worker capacity for influencing decisions at the workplace."

  • I can't find the report itself on the GMB website or the Acuity Analysis twitter feed.

Things that make me think it might be true:

  • It makes sense that retail prices would rise under WTO (as opposed to EU) trade rules, because tariffs would be higher.

Are these figures plausible? Do they match other research done on this topic?

  • 3
    I've done some hunting around and Acuity Analysis appears to be officially be called Acuity Research (beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/11035822). I found this by looking at the tweets in the account you linked and finding a mention in this tweet (twitter.com/acuityanalyses/status/871315233687699456) of a company called Syndex UK. Syndex UK and Acuity Research are linked by a man called David Michael Tarren (beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/officers/oIlGyMBTMM27NaXtCEgl97fn-Sg/…). Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 19:58
  • 3
    Wouldn't that extra £800 a year in tariffs on imports be going to the UK Treasury?
    – DJohnM
    Commented Jun 8, 2019 at 22:15
  • They're saying the same dumb thing in the USA about Trump's tariffs, like that money just evaporates. @DJohnM
    – user11643
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 1:55
  • 1
    @DJohnM They would be export tariffs applied by the country selling the goods into the UK, so would go to the treasury of the exporting country. Would be paid by the companies involved but UK supermarkets would have to raise prices to cover the cost. (That’s my understanding, anyway).
    – A E
    Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 7:59
  • Yes, the £800 goes to the Treasury, but I rather doubt there is a plan to rebate it to the consumers who pay it. The American experience is that it will be transferred to exporters who are damaged by the reciprocal tariffs; in this case, those exporting to the EU. Commented Jun 9, 2019 at 19:15

1 Answer 1


Acuity Analysis seems to have produced some other documents such as briefing for Unite the Union. Its web registration for www.acuityanalysis.org seems to have been done from Cambridgeshire, which is consistent with the Companies House information combinatorics found. There does not actually seem to be any content there. Its online presence has all the hallmarks of a very small consultancy

Turning to the GMB commissioned report on Brexit that you are asking about, it has been widely reported (the GMB union is anti-Brexit and so is promoting a message against Brexit) and a copy seems to be at http://fmcgmagazine.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/060619-Brexit_Consumer_Prices_GMB_Rev_2019.pdf

On the face of it, the idea behind the research is not unreasonable. If the UK left the EU with "no deal" then under WTO rules it could have to apply the same tariffs to imports from the EU as it does from the rest of the world. Since the existing EU external tariffs are are known and the quantities of imports from the EU and elsewhere are known, it is an arithmetic exercise to find the corresponding amounts of an invented shopping basket. I have not checked the detailed calculations

The problem is that other economic changes may also happen with a "no deal Brexit" and it is not clear this research takes it all into account. In particular

  • The UK Government may change UK tariffs for the whole world. It planned to do so in March, with the intention of reducing most of them, and this could have reduced consumer prices, the opposite of this analysis
  • The pound sterling may change value, and if it falls then this would increase import prices and thus increase consumer prices, possibly a bigger effect than that identified in this report
  • There may be other economic changes, with an impact on the whole economy including economic demand, and this too might change consumer prices

Others have also tried to estimate the costs of Brexit, and the Institute for Government produced a summary of some in October 2018. The Bank of England did one in November 2018 with Chart C on page 7 showing possible inflation effects

  • 1
    So basically, "assuming nothing else changes, yes" ? That seems a fair summation. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 4:30
  • Generally good answer, but I think the ad-hom on the GMB and Acuity isn't really necessary. I'd cut the first two paragraphs, the rest stands on its own as an analysis of their claims. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 11:15
  • 2
    I dont find wrong poining out if a source in the question is potentially biased. OP could not know it and would make him/her check if its sources are backed up with actual data.
    – bradbury9
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 13:18

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