The UK’s food industry has asked for competition rules to be relaxed in the event of a no-deal Brexit to allow food supplies to continue.
Under current competition laws, suppliers and retailers are not allowed to discuss their supply or prices with rival companies. However, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) has asked the government to temporarily suspend those rules because retailers and suppliers will need to coordinate to avoid widespread disruption to food supplies.
Last month, Tesco boss Dave Lewis warned that the supermarket faced an uncertain Christmas period due to the possibility of low supplies as a direct result of the later Brexit deadline of 31 October. In fact, one retailer told the BBC that 31 October is “about the worst day you can pick”. With the Christmas period around the corner, warehouse capacity is at around 105%, they explained, compared to 75-80% during the original Brexit deadline of March.
Speaking to the BBC, one food retail boss said: “At the extreme, people like me and people from government will have to decide where lorries go to keep food supply chain going. And in that scenario we’d have to work with competitors, and the government would have to suspend competition laws.”
The FDF’s chief operating officer Tim Rycroft said: “In the event of no-deal disruption, if the government wants the food supply chain to work together to tackle likely shortages – to decide where to prioritise shipments – they will have to provide cast-iron written reassurances that competition law will not be strictly applied to those discussions.”
A government spokesman said: “The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October and our top priority is supporting consumers and businesses in their preparations for Brexit.
“We are working closely with the food industry to support preparations as we leave the EU.”