UK supermarket chain Marks & Spencer has called Brexit EU border checks “unnecessary bureaucracy” as the UK government plans to delay controls on food imports over fears of growing pressure on the market. supply to supermarkets in the run-up to Christmas.
Business leaders said removing import rules for products such as meat, eggs and fish on October 1 would not solve the problem, as the shortage is not on the food supply but on truck drivers. .
Archie Norman, chairman of M&S, told LBC radio that the rules on exports, which are to be reflected on imports from Ireland and the mainland, have added 24-hour delays and “are of no use.” because food standards remain aligned with the EU. “It’s a pointless exercise,” he said.
He said maintaining supplies for Christmas was going to be “bumpy” due to the shortage of truck drivers, but his deliveries to France, Ireland and the Czech Republic had been affected by Brexit.
“What we have found is that the EU’s rules to govern borders and their customs union are totally outdated and not suitable for the purpose for which they are designed – for which we have a fandango of. bureaucracy. Our product, our fresh sandwiches and ready meals, going to Ireland or France are delayed by about a day – not good if you are a sandwich. We pass around 80% of our product, less than in France because the French, as you might expect, are draconian, ”he said.
The government is expected to announce whether it will delay checks on incoming goods, but business leaders say that is not the answer.
‘While further delays in checks on products imported from the EU may help keep supermarket shelves stocked at a difficult time for the UK supply chain, supply problems are largely due to the availability of labor.
“A delay wouldn’t do much to solve these problems, nor the long-term trade frictions we are experiencing,” said Nick von Westenholz, director of trade and business strategy for the National Farmers Union.
Under Brexit rules, importers must notify the government and provide health certificates for animal foods and ‘composite’ products, including lasagna, pork pies, chicken burritos and pepperoni pizza. .
Some fishery products or those made from honey, gelatin or snails will also be affected, according to gov.uk.
The Food and Beverage Federation (FDF) says large importers such as supermarkets are already prepared for these checks and that a delay will only help small food suppliers in France, Spain and elsewhere in the world. the EU who are not ready.
Sources at main street retailers also told the government that the delays “would not be helpful as they would add more uncertainty.”
“Most of our members who do this stuff on a regular basis have done a tremendous amount of work on this and invested a really huge amount of money in training, in building new relationships with customs officers and in staff. All of this will be wasted to some extent if it doesn’t start on October 1, ”said FDF chief executive Ian Wright.
“It also means that there will be an asymmetric relationship for UK companies where we do all the work on exports and pay the costs while EU companies have none of those controls or costs. The government has been telling us firmly for the past six months that there will be no change, so its credibility is at stake here. “
They also fear delays will hit major UK food suppliers who have already suffered what they call a ‘catastrophic’ drop, with the loss of £ 2bn in sales due to bureaucracy at European borders.
Reports within the industry indicate that the government appears to be divided on the issue, with some departments considering suspending enforcement of border controls to promote the free flow of food, particularly the high number of winter imports from from the warmer climates of southern Europe or the industrial-scale frozen food warehouses of the Netherlands and Belgium.