UK researches food supply 'robustness' in event of no-deal disruption

17 January 2019 9:53am

15 January 2019. By Matthew Holehouse.

Could UK supermarkets and the food industry cope with the likely chaos and supply blockages at seaports and the Channel Tunnel in the event of a no-deal Brexit?

The UK government is looking for answers from a research project into the “flexibility and robustness” of food supplies in the event of the UK leaving the bloc without a withdrawal agreement, including the “severe and prolonged disruption” expected to ensue.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last month awarded a contract for 18,000 pounds ($23,000) for the six-week project, involving interviews with supermarkets, manufacturers, caterers and wholesalers.

The tender for the research is another indication a continuing shortage of knowledge about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, less than three months before the scheduled exit day of March 29.

The contract, awarded to supply-chain consultancy Global 78, began in mid-December and will run until the end of this month. The end product will be a slide presentation to Defra officials.

The aim is to “better understand the degree of robustness of agri-food supply chain models to severe and prolonged disruption at UK seaports, including the Channel Tunnel,” according to contract papers published yesterday.

Officials also want to understand the “flexibility” of supply chains for “perishable/short shelf-life product lines,” including finding alternative routes into the UK, and to “better understand the speed at which any supply interruptions could be corrected for.”

The issue of food-supply disruption was thrown into the spotlight yesterday after Treasury minister Mel Stride was photographed carrying a file with a sheet of paper poking out, reading "no food" and "no Channel Tunnel.”

The UK government has said it will continue to allow the free flow of goods from the EU into the UK in the event of a no-deal exit.

But the European Commission has said it will insist on the full customs and regulatory checks on goods entering the bloc from the UK, which could significantly increase freight journey times, particularly on the Dover-Calais sea crossing.

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