Claims by cabinet minister Michael Gove that there will be no food shortages if the UK leaves the EU without a deal are categorically untrue, say retailers.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show about whether there would be any food shortages in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Gove said: “Everyone will have the food they need.”
He added: “No, there will be no shortages of fresh food.”
Asked if food prices would increase, Mr Gove said a number of economic factors were in play.
“Some prices may go up. Other prices will come down,” he told the show on Sunday (1 September).
But a spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: “It is categorically untrue that the supply of fresh food will be unaffected under a no-deal Brexit.
“The retail industry has been crystal clear in its communications with government over the past 36 months that the availability of fresh foods will be impacted as a result of checks and delays at the border.”
The government’s own assessments showed that the flow of goods through the Channel crossings could be reduced by 40-60% from day one, said the BRC spokesman.
So too would the ‘availability and choice’ of some foods.
The BRC’s own analysis suggested soft fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, tomatoes and lettuces, would face reduced availability as they are largely imported during the winter.
“While retailers continue to work with their suppliers to maintain stocks of non-perishable goods and plan ahead for any disruption caused by a no-deal Brexit, it is impossible to mitigate it fully as neither retailers nor consumers can stockpile fresh foods.
“The reality remains that a no-deal Brexit in October would present the worst of all worlds for our high streets and those who shop there.
“Retailers will be preparing for Christmas, stretching already limited warehousing capacity, and the UK will be importing the majority of its fresh food from the EU, magnifying the impact of border delays.”