Business groups on edge after another Brexit deal rejected

Business analysts and industry groups are calling on the government to clarify its plan to leave the European Union after Prime Minister Theresa May’s second Brexit deal was rejected on Tuesday.

Many have expressed frustration with the lack of information about possible new tariff rates, regulations and documentation requirements that could go into effect after March 29, the day the UK will leave the EU according to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union.

“There has simply not been enough information provided by the government on how food prices, availability and regulations will be affected in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The just-in-time supply chain that UK supermarkets operate on means that there is not the specialist infrastructure in place to deal with stockpiling – particularly of fresh goods,” Thomas Brereton, retail analyst for GlobalData, said.

Over a quarter of British shoppers say they have already begun to stockpile or are planning to stockpile food and other products in anticipation of price hikes and product shortages, according to GlobalData’s latest monthly retail tracker.

Brereton said food inflation is expected to rise in 2019 anywhere from 2.4 per cent – forecast under a soft Brexit – to upwards of 5.1 per cent, as prices increase across core categories such as fresh fruit and vegetables.

The cloud of uncertainty is filtering through to other areas beyond food, with Brereton noting that consumers are also gathering over-the-counter medicines from pharmacies in anticipation of availability problems.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the retail industry body, British Retail Consortium, said businesses are “exasperated by the lack of clarity over their future trading arrangements”, The Guardian reported.

“Hundreds of ships are currently sailing towards Britain without a clear understanding of the tariffs, checks, or documentation requirements, they will face when they arrive,” she said.

Make UK, the country’s manufacturing industry body, said a no-deal Brexit would be “disastrous” and put jobs at risk, and SMMT, the country’s car industry body, said it would be “catastrophic”.

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