Retailers criticise Gove's 'no shortages of fresh food' claim

Michael Gove is under fire for his ‘no food shortages’ claim made yesterday
Michael Gove is under fire for his ‘no food shortages’ claim made yesterday

Michael Gove is under fire for claiming that 'there will be no shortages of fresh food' if the UK leaves the EU with no-deal.

Mr Gove, who is now minister in charge of no-deal Brexit planning after leaving his Defra post earlier this year, made the comments on BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday (1 September).

He said “everyone will have the food they need” and added that there would be no shortages of fresh food.

But his comments have attracted criticism from the retail industry who say it is 'categorically untrue' that food would be unaffected if the UK abruptly leaves the EU on October 31.

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said: “It is categorically untrue that the supply of fresh food will be unaffected under a no-deal Brexit.

“The retail industry has been crystal clear in its communications with government over the past 36 months that the availability of fresh foods will be hit as a result of checks and delays at the border.” 

The government’s own assessments showed that the flow of goods through the channel crossings could be reduced by 40-60% from day 1, as would the “availability and choice” of some foods.

The BRC’s own assessment has shown that soft fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, tomatoes and lettuces, would likely see reduced availability as they are largely imported during the winter months.

The spokesman added: “While retailers continue to work with their suppliers to maintain stocks of non-perishable goods and plan ahead for any disruption caused by a no deal Brexit, it is impossible to mitigate it fully as neither retailers nor consumers can stockpile fresh foods.

“The reality remains that a no deal Brexit in October would present the worst of all worlds for our high streets and those who shop there.

“Retailers will be preparing for Christmas, stretching already limited warehousing capacity, and the UK will be importing the majority of its fresh food from the EU, magnifying the impact of border delays,” he said.

It comes as the government launches its largest ever government public information campaign — dubbed “Get ready for Brexit” — intended to prepare the public on Brexit, deal or no-deal.