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Monday, February 17, 2020

Is post-Brexit rationing inevitable?

A lot of the arguments against Brexit are  considered to be esoteric because they do not impact on people's lived experiences. Many cannot see how it will affect their own lifestyle or their cost of living. It is in the interests of Boris Johnson's government to keep it that way.

The Independent however, highlights a real threat that has the potential to undermine the whole project - possible price hikes and food shortages.

The paper tells us that concerned food importers have revealed the “mountain of paperwork” they face under Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit, which they say will lead to them putting up prices, and food shortages on supermarket shelves:

The warning comes after ministers admitted traders will face multiple border checks on almost all goods from January, even if a no-deal Brexit is avoided, with any hopes of “frictionless trade” abandoned.

Now a hard-hitting report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has listed no fewer than six documents its members will have to fill in if there is only a skeleton deal after the transition period.

They are: VAT and customs documents; freight forms; health and veterinary paperwork; export health certificates; exit and entry summary declarations; and safety and security permits.

The BRC also said new IT systems must be “created and tested before 1 January 2021” – after Michael Gove warned they would take five years.

“The government must set about to negotiate a zero-tariff agreement that minimises checks and red tape otherwise it will be consumers who suffer as a result,” said Helen Dickinson, its chief executive.

“The introduction of excessive or avoidable checks would mean businesses face a mountain of paperwork to be filled out by an army of newly trained staff, coupled with exhaustive checks on thousands of lorries every day.

“And the result for consumers would be higher costs and reduced availability on the shelves. The government has no time to lose.”

The BRC say that the checks will be the consequence of seeking a loose “Canada-style” agreement, allowing the UK to break free of some EU rules – and a far cry from the pre-referendum promise that Brexit would reduce red tape:

The BRC fears checks will see thousands of vehicles held at Dover, where even a two-minute hold-up would trigger 17-mile tailbacks – and where there is very little space for new infrastructure.

It is calling for: zero tariffs, coordination on VAT and excise procedures, advance information on new checks and “timely construction” of necessary infrastructure at ports.

As the paper points out almost 80 per cent of the food imported by retailers comes from the EU with 7,000 lorries passing through Dover and Folkestone every day. With the government making it clear that it will pursue a deal with “no alignment” – throwing into jeopardy even the EU’s proposal of a no-tariffs, no-quotas agreement - queues, red-tape, higher prices and shortages may be inevitable.
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