Supermarkets ‘told to stockpile food’ as fears grow of no-deal Brexit
The UK government is reported to have warned supermarkets to stockpile food and other essential supplies amid increasing fears of a no-deal Brexit in less than three weeks’ time.
Boris Johnson and the president of EU commission, Ursula von der Leyen, agreed on Sunday to continue with the fraught trade negotiations, but ministers have played down the chances of a deal.
And in anticipation of shortages prompted by a no-deal, ministers have told supermarkets to start stockpiling goods, according to the Sunday Times.
“There was a conversation a week ago when ministers said prepare for no-deal. This weekend the message is that it’s no-deal,” a senior consultant to one of the big supermarkets told the paper.
The consultant added: “Supermarkets and ministers are hugely worried about panic-buying. They saw what happened over Covid when people started hoarding toilet rolls and now how quickly it can go wrong.”
Food producers have warned supplies of fresh vegetables will be worst hit if tariffs were imposed on goods in the event of a no-deal. They say shortages could last for at least three months.
Andrew Opie, the director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers and suppliers are doing everything they can to reduce disruption for consumers, including increasing the stock of non-perishable items and looking at alternative supply routes.
“The main impact [of] Brexit will be on imported fresh produce, such as much fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.”
The government has also told suppliers of medicines, medical devices and vaccines to stockpile six weeks’ worth at secure locations in the UK.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, insisted the UK has “enough diversity of supply” of medicines in the case of a no-deal.
Asked if he could guarantee the flow of medical supplies to the UK, Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Well of course, with things like vaccines and more generally medical supplies the NHS and DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) already have a widespread programme of stockpiling and security of supply.
“So I actually think – you know, there may be shifts – but we’ve got enough diversity of supply.”
He also appeared to confirm a separate report in the Sunday Telegraph that the government has drawn up plans for a bailout worth billions for farmers and food producers in the event of a no-deal
Asked if the government planned to spend £8bn bailing out farmers, Raab said: “We’ll always look, as we’ve shown through coronavirus, that we want to support those vulnerable communities.”
Meanwhile, there continued to be reports of long delays and tailbacks on motorways at the port of Dover as hauliers blamed the queues on stockpiling.
The shadow justice secretary, David Lammy, accused the prime minister of gambling with public supplies. He tweeted that it was “beyond reproach to see the government telling supermarkets to stockpile food because of its own ideology and incompetence”.