UK imports could face three-day delays at ports after Brexit, BRC warns

File photo of containers on a ship. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

File photo of containers on a ship. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Measures to tackle red tape and improve imports need to be put in place before Brexit to stop food price rises, a business lobbying body has warned.

More than three quarters of food imported by the UK comes from European Union countries and will be covered by new customs arrangements after Britain leaves in 2019.

But the British Retail Consortium has said delays, disruption or additional costs could “affect availability on the shelves, increase waste and push prices up”.

In a report setting out its goals for the future customs relationship, the BRC warned that a “no deal” scenario, or a transitional period to implement the new system, could result in major delays getting perishable products such as food across borders.

Leaving the EU will mean that annual customs declarations are estimated to rise from 55 million to 255 million and the BRC said a “no deal” situation could result in delays of up to three days at ports.

Exiting the EU on World Trade Organisation terms, without a deal with Brussels, would lead to 180,000 extra firms being drawn into customs declarations for the first time.

As well as a customs agreement, the BRC highlighted the need for deals with Brussels on health and veterinary checks, security, VAT and haulage.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “A strong deal on customs is absolutely essential to deliver a fair Brexit for consumers. Whilst the government has acknowledged the need to avoid a cliff-edge after Brexit day, a customs union in itself won’t solve the problem of delays at ports.

“So to ensure supply chains are not disrupted and goods continue to reach the shelves, agreements on security, transit, haulage, drivers, VAT and other checks will be required to get systems ready for March 2019.

“We want to work with the government to develop a system which works for consumers, so that there’s no difference in terms of the availability of affordable, quality products when they make purchases or visit stores post-Brexit.”

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