The British Government has reportedly appointed a minister to oversee the protection of food supplies through the process of leaving the European Union amid rising fears of a potential departure next year without a deal.
The U.K. is due to leave the EU in March 2019, but as yet has not struck a deal with the economic bloc regarding trade after it departs. This has prompted concerns that trade of goods including fruit and vegetables could be significantly impacted.
The MP David Rutley, a former executive of Walmart-owned supermarket chain Asda and PepsiCo, was handed the brief at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs earlier this month, according to The Guardian.
Defra said that Rutley, who once ran home shopping and e-commerce businesses at Asda, was merely taking on responsibilities already held by other ministers.
“It is an honour to join the Defra ministerial team at such an important time. I am determined to ensure that we fully realise the opportunities of leaving the EU,” he was quoted as saying.
Food industry insiders reportedly welcomed his appointment after warnings that delays of only half an hour at U.K. ports and the Irish border would risk one in 10 British firms going bankrupt.
One food industry business leader was quoted as saying: “The issue at the ports is a big threat. The UK always has been a net importer of food. If the ports don’t work then exporters will be struggling and importers will have a challenge too.”