The choice and availability of affordable, quality products for consumers is at risk without additional agreements and investment to supplement a customs deal, according to a new report published today by the BRC.
Now that the UK Government has launched the next phase in the discussion on the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU, there needs to be wider recognition of the complexity and scale of the challenge pertaining to future customs controls.
While its position paper rightly acknowledges the need for a strong customs agreement, there are two vital considerations yet to be mentioned. Firstly, the significant investment required in the UK’s ports, roads and infrastructure to get systems ready for Brexit day and thereafter. Secondly, the suite of new agreements supplementing customs that are necessary to side-step additional red tape at ports and docks and prevent delays to goods.
European supply chains are a key part of delivering the goods that UK consumers buy every day. The majority of those goods are ones that need to be transported quickly, particularly food. This means the UK needs a system of controls after Brexit which ensures that products can continue to be imported without delays, disruption or additional costs, which would affect availability on the shelves, increase waste and push prices up.
Getting this right is essential to ensuring UK consumers are able to buy the products they want after Brexit. With annual customs declarations in the UK estimated to rise from 55 million to 255 million from March 2019, a no deal Brexit could mean new delays at ports of up to two to three days.
From additional documentation, red tape and new complex procedures, The Customs Roadmap sets out the practical challenges and considerations the UK Government faces in delivering as frictionless trade as possible for consumers and the essential steps that must be taken to achieve this.
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the BRC said:
“A strong deal on customs is absolutely essential to deliver a fair Brexit for consumers. Whilst the Government has acknowledged the need to avoid a cliff-edge after Brexit day, a customs union in itself won’t solve the problem of delays at ports. So to ensure supply chains are not disrupted and goods continue to reach the shelves, agreements on security, transit, haulage, drivers, VAT and other checks will be required to get systems ready for March 2019.
“We want to work with the Government to develop a system which works for consumers, so that there’s no difference in terms of the availability of affordable, quality products when they make purchases or visit stores post-Brexit. We believe our recommendations will help to achieve that and enable our world-leading retail industry to continue serving customers and contribute to the growth of the UK economy.”