Leading retail bosses have written to the government warning of significant disruption to food supplies in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The letter that was sent from the British Retail Consortium, also warns that grocery prices are likely to rise, as nearly a third of the food eaten in Britain comes from the EU and would subject to import tariffs if the UK exits without a trade deal in place. It said, “We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no-deal Brexit.”
The letter is signed by the retail trade body and 10 leading store bosses, including Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe, Asda chief executive Roger Burnley, Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe, as well as the Co-op, Waitrose, Costcutter, KFC UK, Pret a Manger, Lidl and McDonald's. “We anticipate significant risks to maintaining the choice, quality and durability of food that our customers have come to expect in our stores, and there will be inevitable pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs,” they said. The letter came a day before another crucial day in parliament, as MPs vote on a series of amendments to Theresa May's Brexit plan.
They expressed particular concern about fresh foods, saying it is “impossible” to stockpile fresh produce, such as salad leaves and fresh fruit. The retail bosses said retailers typically store no more than two weeks' stock. They said that “as prudent businesses” they are stockpiling in order to be prepared for no deal but with frozen and chilled storages nearing capacity, there is very little general warehousing space available in the UK. The letter said, “While we have been working closely with our suppliers on contingency plans, it is not possible to mitigate all the risks to our supply chains and we fear disruption in the short-term as a result if there is no Brexit deal.”
It has also warned of “major disruption” at Calais, a key route for food imports to the UK, potentially reducing freight trade by nearly 90 per cent as the French government has said it will enforce sanitary and customs checks on exports from the EU, which will cause long delays. “For consumers, this will reduce the availability and shelf life of many products in our stores.”