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Firms warn UK 'using up' stockpiles built up for Brexit amid France border shutdown

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2 min read
Lettuce varieties are displayed at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, Britain May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall
Lettuce stocks are at risk, according to business chiefs. Photo: REUTERS/Neil Hall

Travel and freight bans have left the UK using up goods stockpiled for Brexit, business chiefs have warned.

Haulage, retail and food production leaders sounded the alarm over UK supplies at an emergency hearing held by MPs on the border fallout from surging UK cases of the new coronavirus strain on Tuesday.

With a French blockade on UK trade and travel ongoing and at least 1,500 trucks and drivers stuck in Kent, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) warned delays leaving the UK would spell delays returning with goods.

“In effect we are using up some of the stocking that has been put in place in preparation for Brexit,” said Duncan Buchanan, its chief executive. He said two days’ worth of stock remained stuck in the UK, sparking supply chain disruption “of the like we have probably never experienced.”

Meanwhile Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), told MPs a resolution to the French ban was needed within 24 hours “ to avoid problems on our shelves.”

READ MORE: UK travel ban leaves 4,000-truck backlog

He said if vehicles could not leave the UK urgently, heading to packhouses in Europe and then returning, there would be “problems” for fresh produce supplies from Sunday (27 December).

But he stressed retailers were not anticipating problems beyond certain fresh product supplies, with less perishable and more long-life products able to enter the UK via other routes.

Several retail leaders have also said they do not expect more immediate supply issues over Christmas, urging customers to shop as normal.

WATCH: EU tells countries to lift UK blanket travel bans over new COVID-19 strain

Ian Wright, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation, which represents producers, said some firms that had not yet stockpiled may also see their ability to do so “compromised.”

“Lots of companies would have intended to stockpile in the post-Christmas period to allow them to build up buffer stocks of ingredients and finished products,” he said.

READ MORE: France under pressure to end UK blockade as EU warns against blanket bans

He said dozens of stuck lorries would contain products that were “going off,” and claimed the UK government should have anticipated the rest of Europe would be “scared” by its own warnings on the new COVID-19 strain. Stopping goods and people was a “natural” reaction, he added.

More than 40 countries have announced restrictions. “It really is incumbent on the government to come forward amply prepared to compensate those who lost out because of that failure of authority.”

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