Helen Dickinson, of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents UK retailers, responded to Theresa May’s trade plan to highlight the “cost” of a so-called “no-deal scenario” on imports and customs.
“The UK’s future trade policy is the most significant aspect of the Brexit negotiations for consumers. This report lays bare what the cost of a no-deal scenario on customs would mean.
“Annual customs declarations would jump from 55 to 250 million and with four million trucks crossing the border between the UK and EU each year, new red tape, border controls and checks would mean delays at ports of up to two to three days for some products.
“Businesses and consumers would face higher costs, gaps on shelves and product shortages.
“Unless the UK seals the best deal with the EU to guarantee the continuation of free movement of goods between across our borders, UK shoppers will be hit with reduced availability of affordable goods with almost immediate effect.”
Retail is a big contributor to the British economy, employing 2.8m and generating £358bn last year, according to Retail Economics.
A big stumbling block in negotiations with the EU thus far has been how goods pass through the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit.
Monday’s Customs Bill white paper revealed the UK is no further forward in finding a solution to the border issue than it was in the summer.
Under the heading “Preparing for a contingency scenario” – effectively leaving the EU without a trade deal – the paper states:
“The government is committed to developing solutions to the issues that implementing a new customs regime would raise, particularly in the areas, such as ro-ro ports and the Northern Ireland-Ireland land border, that are likely to be the most complex. The government is seeking the views of businesses and other stakeholders on these solutions.”
The white paper was published - along with a similar document on post-EU trade - after the Prime Minister had delivered a statement on Brexit talks to the Commons.
The statement spoke to the “end game” of Brexit, pleasing Brexiteers, and repeated the possibility of a “no-deal”, HuffPost UK Political Editor Paul Waugh reported.
It was also May’s first grilling by MPs since she used a speech in Florence to announce a transition period of around two years after March 2019 before the UK enters into its new relationship with the EU.
Labour MPs were in a noticeably more buoyant mood than those on the Government benches, with many breaking out into laughter as the Prime Minister set out her plans for the Brexit talks.
May claimed that her Florence speech had helped moved the negotiations along, and she was hopeful the two sides “can now reach full agreement quickly.”
With reporting from Owen Bennett.
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