A no-deal Brexit could lead to tariffs of 40% or more being imposed on food imports, driving up prices in shops and squeezing household budgets across the U.K. and Ireland, retail organizations from both countries have warned.
With mounting fears that the U.K. could leave the European Union without an agreement in a little over a month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) and Retail Ireland, issued a joint warning that this outcome could lead to delays at borders and shortages of fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.
The scheduled withdrawal on 29 March comes at a time in the year when the U.K. imports a lot of fresh, out-of-season, produce – 90% of the lettuce consumed in Britain, 80% of tomatoes and 70% of soft fruits come from, or arrive via, Europe.
Increased tariffs, the devaluation of sterling and new regulatory checks would drive up the cost of fresh food and drink, which would be passed on to consumers, the retail bodies warned.
If the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal, both fall back on the World Trade Organization’s most favored nation tariffs, which means import duties on everyday food items, including 40% on beef, 21% on tomatoes and 15.5% on apples.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the BRC, said: “We cannot easily find an alternative to imports through Calais where there are frequent ferry sailings and the Channel tunnel.
"The volumes of fresh produce imported through there are enormous, for example at peak periods there are approximately 130 lorries a day passing through with just citrus fruits.”
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