Stores will see less choice of food and steep price increases as EU suppliers shun the UK over the latest round of Brexit red tape, retailers and hauliers have warned.
Specialist food shops in particular are being hit hard by bureaucracy introduced on Jan 1 with some fearing that their businesses will no longer be viable when physical checks on food imports are introduced in July.
One haulier likened Brexit to “death by a thousand cuts” as EU companies increasingly shun the UK with each new round of paperwork, administration and delays.
In London’s Borough Market, traders selling produce from around the world should be gearing up for a good year as the pandemic recedes and tourists begin to return.
Yet, many in the famous market are nervous, said Klaus Kuhnke, owner of German Deli, which he founded in 1999.
His transport and administrative costs have doubled, and shipments take days longer to arrive than they did before Brexit.
“I can’t stock that product anymore. Where’s my margin? I’m paying more for the administration than the product itself,” he said. “The whole thing is stupid and pointless.”
When physical checks on food are introduced in July this year, Kuhnke estimates he won’t be able to offer around a third of the products he stocks now.
“My fear is that I won’t have a viable business anymore,” Kuhnke said.
The logistics firm he had used for 20 years recently told him they would no longer transport his goods because it wasn’t worth the hassle.
Two of German Deli’s suppliers have also said they will no longer send goods to the UK. “They cannot be bothered to fill in the additional paperwork.”
“As a small business, we are just hoping that the big boys kick up such a fuss that things are fixed.”
James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, said export controls introduced in 2021 had been “terminal” to some UK food businesses’ EU sales.
From Jan 1 this year, certain food imports have to be registered on a system called IPAFFS which has had teething problems and is not yet fully operational.
Shipments must have customs declarations in place and can now also be selected for physical customs checks, meaning they have to drive to a facility and wait.
Shane Brennan, of the Cold Chain Federation, which represents refrigerated lorry companies, warned that the new system had not yet been tested properly and problems could worsen.