BRC warns time running out for £3bn tariff bombshell

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has long been calling for a zero-tariff zero-quota trade deal between the UK and EU under its 'Fair Deal for Consumers' campaign.

With coronavirus affecting the livelihoods of millions of people in the UK, many households can ill afford higher prices for their weekly food shop.

The BRC’s July report, “Why Tariffs are Bad News for UK Consumers”, explained that, given the highly competitive nature of retail, the industry cannot absorb all these increased costs, meaning the public would face higher prices from 1st January 2021.

Furthermore, increases in physical checks, paperwork, and other non-tariff barriers will push up the cost for retailers even more.

Andrew Opie, BRC's Director of Food & Sustainability, (pictured), said, “With just weeks to go, it is alarming that there has still been no deal agreed with the EU, putting customers in line for a £3bn tariff bombshell.

'Currently, four-fifths of UK food imports come from the EU and without a tariff-free deal, supermarkets and their customers face over £3bn in tariffs from 2021.

'Furthermore, retailers will need time to implement the aspects of any deal, and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the new checks and red tape that will apply from 1st January will create disruption in the supply of many goods.'

Opie continued, 'Retailers have spent huge amounts of time and money preparing ahead of 1st January - increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer life products as part of their planning for a no deal Brexit, so there will be sufficient supply of essential products.

'They have also been building new customs and VAT processes, working with suppliers to ease logistics, and more – but with so many unknowns, some disruption for consumers and businesses is inevitable.'

Opie concluded, “Retailers are doing everything they can in time for 1st January, but no amount of preparation for retailers can entirely prevent disruption to food and other essential goods that come from or through the EU. With negotiations entering the 11th hour, protecting UK and EU consumers from billions in tariffs must be the top priority.”