BRC warns of EU trade deal impact for retail

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has called for pragmatic solutions on future compliance and regulatory checks that will apply from January 2021, arguing that without these, consumers will face higher costs and reduced availability of goods.

The trade association’s new report outlined the retail industry’s priorities for the upcoming government negotiations with the EU.

Almost 80 per cent of the food imported by retailers comes from the EU, making the problem particularly acute for these essential goods. Most of this comes through Dover and Folkestone, the UK’s largest roll-on/roll-off ports, which handle almost 7,000 lorries every day.

While the report makes clear that there is no possibility of return to frictionless trade under the government’s red lines, there are key mitigations that could reduce the impact on consumers and retailers:

• Zero tariff trade deal.
• Cooperation with the EU to minimise trade friction.
• Coordination on VAT, customs and excise procedures.
• Advance information on new checks and paperwork.
• Timely construction of necessary infrastructure at UK ports.

The BRC argued that without pragmatic agreements with the EU, companies may be required to produce VAT and excise documents, freight documents, health and veterinary paperwork, export health certificates, exit and entry summary declarations, safety and security permits.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “The introduction of excessive or avoidable checks would mean businesses face a mountain of paperwork to be filled out by an army of newly trained staff, coupled with exhaustive checks on thousands of lorries every day; and the result for consumers would be higher costs and reduced availability on the shelves.

“Meanwhile, new IT systems will need to be created and tested before 1 January 2021,” she continued, adding: “Border control posts must be built, with people hired and trained to run, unless these are ready and tested; the government has no time to lose.”

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