04/09/2017 11:20 BST

Brexit Could Mean Food Rotting At The Border If Strict Checks Are Introduced, Sainsbury's Boss Warns

Delays in border checks could make food cost more and affect freshness.

Brexit would mean fresh food is left rotting at the border if it results in strict border controls, the boss of Sainsbury’s has said.

Mike Coupe said a third of British food is sourced from the EU and borders checks that slowed lorries by even a few hours would have a “detrimental effect on freshness”. 

The Sainsbury’s chief executive told the Press Association: “The UK sources roughly a third of its food from the European Union and food is by far and away the UK’s largest export.

PA Archive/PA Images
Mike Coupe: 'If you’re shipping fresh produce from a long distance, even a few hours of delay can make a material impact'

“If you take our fresh produce supply chains, for example, we put things on a lorry in Spain and it will arrive in a distribution centre somewhere in England, and it won’t have gone through any border checks.

“Anything that encumbers that has two effects: it adds cost, and it also has a detrimental effect on freshness – if you’re shipping fresh produce from a long distance, even a few hours of delay can make a material impact.”

Coupe, who has been a vocal opponent of increased border checks, made his comments after the British Retail Consortium warned Brexit could mean gaps in supermarket shelves.

PA Archive/PA Images
Mike Coupe said the strict border checks would have a 'detrimental affect in freshness' (lorries queueing at Dover pictured)

In a position paper published last month, the Government set out two options for customs checks with the EU after Brexit, one that would involve no border checks but another that would mean “an increase in administration”.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson warned that the suggestions of a transitional arrangement after Brexit day in 2019 “won’t solve the problem of delays at ports”.

Leaving the EU without a trade deal or transitional period could mean delays at ports of up to three days, the BRC said.

Dickinson said: “To ensure supply chains are not disrupted and goods continue to reach the shelves, agreements on security, transit, haulage, drivers, VAT and other checks will be required to get systems ready for March 2019.”