There could be trouble ahead – Post-Grace Period Blues
M&S warn of potential Christmas chaos – NIFDA warn of labour shortages
M&S chairman Archie Norman has warned that Northern Ireland customers will be affected in the run up to Christmas – once the Brexit grace period ends on 30th September – with less choice and higher prices – while the Northern Ireland Food & drink Association has warned of severe labour shortages in the food processing sector locally.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday M&S chairman Archie Norman said supply chain issues are ‘about to get worse.’
Reduction in food supply
“The result would be substantial reduction in food supply from the UK to Northern Ireland and an increase in prices for its citizens. Already, M&S has had to cancel sales of our Christmas Food to Order, our top-end range service, into Northern Ireland because we just don’t know if we can get it there.”
He also warned of tough decisions to delist product for Northern Ireland because “it’s simply not worth the risk of trying to get it through.”
The combination of the HGV driver shortage and the scale of paperwork required to transport some products from GB to Northern Ireland are making the situation unsustainable – and if M&S is affected, it’s likely that other multiples could be affected.
A fandango of bureaucracy
The M&S chief described the situation as “a fandango of bureaucracy, extra costs and food waste,” indicating that some M&S vehicles travel to ports in GB with 700 pages of documentation, “equivalent to three paperback books” he said.
“This is not a one-way street. At the moment, the Irish Government is following EU guidelines and implementing their draconian controls. But by contrast, the UK has allowed EU products to continue to flow into the country, no veterinary checks, no border inspection.
Mutual act of self-destruction
“Starting in October, that is going to change when UK Government rules are set to mirror those of the EU. So in a mutual act of self-destruction, we risk lumbering French cheese producers and Spanish chorizo manufacturers with the same costs as we have faced trying to export food to the EU” he told the Mail on Sunday, adding that “delays, driver shortages and paper mountains could be spectacular”.