Post-Brexit rules could leave food rotting at UK border, says Sainsbury’s chief

Fresh food could be left rotting at the British border if strict customs controls for EU goods are put in place after Brexit, Sainsbury’s chief executive has warned

In a direct intervention into the Brexit debate, Mike Coupe said anything disrupting established food supply chains, currently governed by EU customs arrangements, would be “detrimental”.

“The UK sources roughly a third of its food from the European Union and food is by far and away the UK’s largest export,” he told the Press Association.

“If you take our fresh produce supply chains, for example, we put things on a lorry in Spain and it will arrive in a distribution centre somewhere in England, and it won’t have gone through any border checks.

“Anything that encumbers that has two effects: it adds cost, and it also has a detrimental effect on freshness – if you’re shipping fresh produce from a long distance, even a few hours of delay can make a material impact.”

Mr Coupe claimed that the repercussions of supply chain disruption are “not fully recognised” in Westminster.

He cautioned that if it gets nearer to March 2019 and a solution has not been found, retailers and food producers will “make that point and make it very strongly”.

:: UK produce helps keep lid on Brexit food inflation

The warning comes after the British Retail Consortium said last week that food prices could rocket unless measures to tackle red tape and improve ports are put in place before Britain exits the bloc in March 2019.

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