Responding to the latest announcement that trade negotiations between the UK and EU will continue, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:
“The 11th hour has passed and every passing moment of uncertainty makes it harder for businesses to prepare effectively for the 1st January. Without a deal, the British public will face over £3bn in food tariffs and retailers would have no choice but to pass on some of these additional costs to their customers who would see higher prices filter though during 2021. Moreover, new checks and red tape that will apply from 1st January will create an additional burden for retailers and their customers.

“Retailers are doing everything they can to prepare for all eventualities on 1st January - increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer life products so there will be sufficient supply of essential products. They have also been building new customs and VAT processes, working with suppliers to ease logistics, and more. While no amount of preparation by retailers can entirely prevent disruption there is no need for the public to buy more food than usual as the main impact will be on imported fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.

“Both sides must double down and do what is necessary to agree a zero-tariff agreement, or else it will be the public that pay the price of this failure. With many people’s finances already strained by the economic impact of coronavirus, households can ill-afford a significant rise in food prices. For the sake of customers and businesses around the UK, we need a deal in the next three weeks.”