Dominic Watkins, head of food at law firm DWF, warned that substantial delays at borders were becoming an increasingly realistic prospect, with empty shelves and increased prices fast moving from a very real possibility to a certainty of a no-deal Brexit.
His comments came as Food and Drink Federation (FDF) chief executive Ian Wright was reported this morning to have called for a crisis meeting with government ministers to discuss the industry’s growing concerns around supply chain disruption and food shortages post-Brexit.
Relaxing the borders
Watkins argued that against a backdrop of regulatory equivalence with the EU, it was natural for the Government to consider relaxing the borders and wave EU food through as a quick solution.
“After all the EU's standards were our standards until Brexit and this is just a form of mutual recognition, which forms the heart of our current relationship with the EU and other free trade deals,” he said.
“This is, however, a simplistic viewpoint and there is substantial risk inherent with the lack of control in opening the borders in this way, which would be ripe for abuse, and this should worry us all.”
Watkins called on the Government and Tory party to stop arguing with itself. It should quickly and effectively engage with industry to present a consistent, clear, coherent and workable position that enabled the UK to access the foods it needed through workable borders, he said.
‘Unacceptable’ level of information
“The information currently provided is entirely unacceptable to enable the industry to plan for the future,” he added.
This morning also saw the FDF publish the results of its second-quarter Confidence Survey. According to its results, the UK’s future relationship with the EU was among the top three concerns of businesses polled, with contingency measures seen as barriers to success for many.
Ian Wright added: “The shadow of a ‘no deal’ Brexit looms large over business confidence amongst the UK’s food and drink manufacturing industry. This should be no surprise: there are so many crucial questions to which businesses need answers.”