A lack of capacity at UK ports could see shoppers face food shortages and soaring prices after Brexit, according to a leading trade association.
The British Retail Consortium has released a report which warned a failure to invest in physical, as well as digital, infrastructure to handle a new EU-UK customs regime would cause massive disruption for consumers – though it could provide import substitution opportunities for UK farmers.
The paper pointed out Dover currently handles 10,000 freight movements a day between the UK and the continent, but it has no capacity to hold consignments which need customs clearance – something which could become commonplace after Brexit.
The estimated cost of holding a delayed driver with a refrigerated lorry at a port is £500 per day, adding cost and interruption to supply chains.
The report read: “Ensuring UK and EU ports are ready for a new customs system is key. In the UK, investment is needed in port capacity, roads, warehouses and IT systems to ensure the new Customs Declaration System (CDS) is ready for the challenge in 2019.”
Concerns around the issue of transporting food were also raised.
“The role of haulage in transporting goods across customs borders should not be underestimated”, the paper said.
“To reduce further delays, the UK and EU will need to strike deals on the movement of trucks or lorries, vehicle registration and the ability of drivers who are EU nationals to drive vehicles into the UK and vice versa if a customs border is created between them at some point after 2019.
“The UK and EU must also reach agreement on health and veterinary checks, security and VAT to ensure goods can move between markets as efficiently as possible.”