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Brexit could seriously damage Britain’s food supplies because customs problems could cripple supply chains

Brexit could seriously damage Britain’s food supplies because customs problems could cripple supply chains. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) is warning that unless the Government negotiates the right customs controls during forthcoming Brexit talks then the UK’s sensitive food supply could be seriously damaged. The current rationing of vegetables has highlighted the danger and the problems with supplies of lettuce could be just the tip of a dangerous iceberg on the horizon.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said “Nearly 30% of all food consumed in the the UK comes from the EU and it all arrives in lorries. At the moment, the process is seamless – it’s as easy to deliver from Milan to Manchester as it is from Manchester to Leeds as far as customs processes are concerned. After Brexit, that will no longer be the case, and we have to get the new processes right. Otherwise the system for getting food into the country could grind to a halt.”

The RHA fears that massive queues of lorries could build up at ports with not enough serious staff to cope with a backlog while fresh food supplies rot.

“We are not reassured by recent government statements. The White Paper suggest that HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) has a world-class customs service. For EU continental road haulage, it has no system. It will face new challenges and government must recognise that and assure business that HMRC will have whatever resources it requires to get the job done.”

Richard Burnett concluded: “The RHA welcomes the government’s commitment to cross-border trade being as frictionless as possible. But customs process for containers and air freight will not work for the millions of trucks that move through Dover and our ports. There are nearly 4.5 million journeys between the UK and Europe each year that are HMRC-free at the moment. These trucks carry jobs, components, products – and 30% of our food!”

The official views expressed by the RHA on this subject are available on their website.

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has called on the Government to do a few things in its Spring Budget submission. These include:

  • Ensure that Brexit negotiations enhance the UK economy by minimising the burdens placed on businesses moving goods globally.
  • Stimulate UK economic growth and protect economic activity by reducing road fuel duty by three pence per litre, by supporting efforts to meet the UK’s local air quality targets, and by reinstating the duty differential for used cooking oil as a bio-fuel in commercial vehicles.
  • Help industry to tackle the current skills shortage by ensuring that the Apprenticeship Levy – and the training funding it will provide – is flexible enough to meet businesses’ needs and by providing a policy framework and sufficient funding to support the provision of new and improved roadside facilities for drivers.