No-deal Brexit could result in a shortage of perishable goods and hard-to-grow products on British shelves, writes Ryan Hooper, PA chief reporter.

The UK food industry said the main impact of such a departure from the bloc will be on fresh produce, such as fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stockpiled by retailers or consumers and are largely imported from the EU during the winter months.

Others said disruption to supply chains - such as through lengthy stops at borders - could have implications for product availability and consumer choice.

A Food and Drink Federation (FDF) spokesman said: "Delays and blockages at the ports would pose a particular threat. On average, we import 40% of our food and drink either directly from or via the EU.

"However, our reliance on importing is significantly higher around the October 31 exit date. We are concerned about the impact on imports where Government isn't able to secure continuity deals for existing EU preferential trade agreements.

"A no-deal scenario would see the current flows of goods into the UK be significantly reduced for a period of months at a minimum. Limited shelf life products are where impacts will be likely felt, such as fruit and vegetables, salads, certain meats and essential ingredients like processed egg.

"There is no predictability around the types of goods that will get stuck in transit on their way into the UK, and therefore the impacts for consumers and manufacturers due to delays.

"FDF supports the closest possible trade and regulatory alignment between the UK and EU and an immigration policy which ensures access to the workers we need."

Some of the items experts told PA might be affected include dairy and pork.


The EU's importance in producing cheese for the UK cannot be underestimated.

So much so that Liz Truss, now Trade Secretary and formerly chief secretary to the Treasury, famously described the two-thirds import rate as "a disgrace".

The figures are stark.

In 2015, some 101,634 tonnes of cheddar cheese were imported to the UK, of which 98% was from the EU.

The following year, 96,449 tonnes of cheddar made its way to the UK, with 91,866 of that originating in Europe.

By 2017, some 91,816 tonnes of the 92,189 of cheddar imported were from the EU, while all but 85 tonnes of the 108,484 in 2018 was from Europe.

Similarly, since 2015, at least 98% of the UK's annual butter imports originate from the EU.

Ash Amirahmadi, vice chairman of Dairy UK, said: "One thing we can all agree on is that trade policy is key to the success of the sector going forward.

"We stand ready to work with our colleagues in Government to ensure the voice of both dairy and agriculture is reflected in trade and tariff discussions."


But speculation about a no-deal Brexit is not just threatening to affect imports.

The UK currently exports around 335,000 tonnes of pork a year to the UK, with just over half of that to the EU market - although the balance is expected to tip in favour of the non-EU market within the next couple of years.

But still, the EU export market is worth around £200 million a year to the UK - a significant figure.

Tariffs of between 45p/kg and 150p/kg on exports into Europe would be likely to render trade unviable and create a significant challenge for UK pig producers - particularly because they lay open the potential for cheaper meat from outside the UK to be imported without such sanctions.

Ed Barker, senior policy adviser of the National Pig Association, said: "The detail we have is not particularly helpful. We have been told we are at the mercy of being undercut by global exporters.

"The real concern is the introduction of exporting countries to the UK for the first time. We don't know fully what the outcome will be - but potentially losing the European export market is huge.

"Losing the European export market overnight would be a significant challenge, and would have a knock-on impact on producers and the way in which we can provide products like bacon and sausages."