Retail experts warn of gaps on food shelves if government doesn't prepare for Brexit

Helen Cahill
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The government must ready itself for customs changes, the BRC said (Source: Getty)

Retail industry experts have warned gaps could appear on supermarket shelves if the government does not secure the right customs agreements and infrastructure investment required to prepare the UK for Brexit, retail experts have warned

In a report highlighting the changes the UK will face on leaving the Customs Union, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the government must not "underestimate the complexity and scale of the challenge" the transition poses.

Read more: City eyes its own Brexit positioning paper after customs plans laid out

The government must invest in the UK's ports and roads and make sure its computer systems are ready for the extra customs declarations expected after Brexit, the BRC said.

The trade body has estimated that customs declarations could rise in number by between 55m and 255m per year, and that an extra 180,000 companies could be filing declarations for the first time, if the UK leaves the EU on the terms set by the World Trade Organisation.

In addition, ports must be ready to handle a higher throughput of regulatory documents after Brexit to avoid delays.

Read more: Davis lays cards on the table: Brexit secretary sets out customs vision

Currently, all products from the EU are cleared through customs with a "Single Administrative Document". However, without a strong customs deal, importers will require a variety of extra documents, including a certificate of origin, security certificates, transit permits, commercial invoices, and more.

Possible delays at the border would be most problematic for food imports, 79 per cent of which come from the EU.

"We believe more detail and planning is required around issues like security, transit, haulage, VAT and mutual recognition of enforcement regimes between the EU and the UK on a number of agreements," the BRC said.

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