Supplies of fresh food coming into the UK will be disrupted by border checks due to come into force at the end of this year, say retailers.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) issued the warning after Michael Gove confirmed the end of frictionless trade with the European Union.
Border checks were “inevitable” after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December, said Mr Gove.
“The UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union, so we will have to be ready for the customs procedures and regulatory checks that will inevitably follow,” he told a Border Delivery Group event on Monday (10 February).
But the BRC, which represents more than 5,000 businesses delivering £180bn of sales, said the checks could hold up thousands of trucks at Channel ports – including those carrying fresh food, such as fruit and vegetables.
Supermarket shelves would be hit unless quick action was taken to put in the necessary staff and infrastructure, said the BRC.
“We continue to push the government to ensure the UK is ready and to engage with retailers to find pragmatic approaches to border controls,” it said.
The government argues that import controls will keep UK borders safe and secure – tracking who and what is coming in and how often.
It says border checks will ensure all countries are treated equally as the UK negotiates new trading arrangements outside the EU.
Mr Gove said: “As a result of that we will be in a stronger position, not just to make sure that our economy succeeds outside the European Union, but that we are in a position to take advantage of new trading relationships with the rest of the world.”
Checks will enable the UK to collect customs, VAT and excise duties, says the government.
“The EU has said it will enforce checks on our goods entering the Eurozone. We will likewise enforce our own rules for goods entering the UK.”