The convenience and wider grocery industry is warning of the “disruptive” and “damaging” consequences of a no-deal Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May will attempt to convince MPs to back the government’s Brexit deal on 11 December, after the 27 other EU nations approved the terms of the UK’s exit at a summit on Sunday (25 November). If the deal is not passed by Parliament, the alternative scenario could be a no-deal Brexit.
The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive, James Lowman, said that exiting the EU without a deal would lead to “supply chain disruption that would impact the sector”.
“We’re in close contact with the government over the implications of Brexit and we’re keen to hear specific issues, questions and concerns from convenience retailers,” he added.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors (FWD) chief executive, James Bielby, said: “FWD is working with ministers, officials and MPs to help them understand the impact of Brexit on the wholesale sector.
“A no-deal scenario would be very damaging for the food and drink sector. Within the specific Withdrawal Agreement, our members have concerns over access to labour post Brexit when freedom of movement will be restricted, although the continuation of vital frictionless trade with the EU is to be welcomed.”
British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive, Helen Dickinson, also warned of the consequences of an EU withdrawal with no deal.
“It is now up to Parliament to ensure that we can have a transition period from March 29  and avoid a chaotic no-deal Brexit for consumers,” Dickinson said.
“A transition period is essential to give retailers and their suppliers time to adapt to business outside the EU. Without such a deal, consumers face higher prices, and less choice on the shelves.”
Over a third (38%) of UK businesses said they were reporting an increase in overall costs as a result of stockpiling in advance of a no-deal Brexit, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) food & drink business confidence survey 2018.
An FDF spokesman said: “As part of their contingency planning, food and drink manufacturers will be looking to hedge against the risk of ‘no-deal’ where possible. This may include storing increased volumes of ingredients, and chilled and frozen foods.
“While we’re aware that larger companies are preparing for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, this approach will prove difficult for most SMEs, who do not possess the same level of resource.
“We will not run out of food and drink in a ‘no-deal’ scenario but there is potential for serious disruption to supplies and this would have implications for product availability and consumer choice. Stockpiling is not a sustainable long-term approach.”