The government has "no time to lose" in negotiating a comprehensive trade deal for the UK before 1 January next year when the Brexit transition period comes to an end, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
The organisation has published a number of recommendations in its report, A Fair Deal for Consumers. Top of the list is a zero tariff deal to keep down costs for consumers, and to assist with the new Northern Ireland trade arrangements. Almost 80% of imported food into the UK comes from the EU.
BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said huge areas of potential red tape still need to be addressed to prevent the “introduction of excessive or avoidable checks” which would result in “higher costs and reduced availability on the shelves.”
Some increases in checks will be inevitable. UK ports need to have the capacity to handle these, and retailers and suppliers will need time to test any new systems before January 2021.
CIEH director for Northern Ireland Gary McFarlane said: “I am not surprised they are saying this – we have been saying the same thing for some time, as have others.
“There’s potential here for significant impact on food supply and the disruption to the just-in-time model – which assumes no checks – not to mention potential tariffs on everything being imported into the UK, with all the implications this will have for food poverty. Everybody thinks we are beyond no deal but now it all depends on the detail.”
McFarlane added: “It’s all to do with standards and standard equivalence and whether the UK maintains alignment with EU standards. Quality, traceability, hygiene measures – we need to maintain alignment or indeed be better.”