Retailers warn of fruit and veg disruption after transition period

Businesses in the UK and EU will have to process customs declarations and be liable to checks in 2021
Businesses in the UK and EU will have to process customs declarations and be liable to checks in 2021

The UK could see disruption to the supply of fruit and vegetables after the government confirmed it will enforce post-Brexit transition border checks, an industry body has warned.

Consumers could see supply issues as controls are set to come into force next January at the end of the transition period, the British Retail Consortium said.

Such checks at the border could cause significant delays, including for the thousands of lorries which carry fresh produce.

A high-tech, simplified 'smart border' will not come into force until 2025, officials have said.

Until then, businesses in the European Union and the UK will have extra paperwork. The government said there is enough time to prepare.

But director of food and sustainability at the BRC, Andrew Opie, urged ministers to 'move fast' to put in place border infrastructure.

He said: “Without the necessary infrastructure up and running from day one, consumers in the UK will see significant disruption, particularly in the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables.

“If you think this is going to hit us in January, that's our peak import season for things like fresh fruit and vegetables.

“Customers are really going to see the problems on supermarket shelves unless we get that infrastructure,” he said.

Michael Gove, the government's Brexit planning chief, said the UK 'will have to be ready' for the customs procedures and regulator checks that will follow after the transition period.

“As a result of that we will be in a stronger position, not just to make sure that our economy succeeds outside the EU but that we are in a position to take advantage of new trading relationships with the rest of the world,” he said earlier this week at a Border Delivery Group event.

The Brexit transition period is due to finish at 11pm on 31 December this year.