Food shortages warning ‘shows Brexit is reducing quality of life’
Warnings from retailers about possible shortages of some fresh foods show the "diminution of the quality of life" brought about by Brexit, the Constitution Secretary has said.
Mike Russell was speaking after the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned MSPS that when new border control arrangements for goods coming to the UK from Europe are phased in from April, there could be some disruption to supplies.
William Bain, BRC trade policy adviser, said the "biggest problems" are likely to affect items with short shelf lives, such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
Mr Russell later told Holyrood's Europe Committee it is "ridiculous that we are talking about the circumstances in which the flows of fruit and vegetables, established supply chains, are being interrupted".
He added: "We didn't vote for Brexit anyway, but that is not what anybody voted for.
"I don't want to exaggerate this, people are not going to starve as a result of this, but there is going to be a diminution of the quality of life and that is what Brexit is bringing about."
Mr Bain said shoppers have become used to buying items such as tomatoes and strawberries all year round, and not just when they are in season from UK suppliers.
Mr Bain told the committee: "There are real concerns that we could at some points of the week have some shortages of certain food stuffs.
"The real test will be what
happens when the border controls are phased, in April every consignment of what we might call products of animal origin, everything from yoghurt, to cheese to meat to fish, is going to have to be prenotified before it leaves the EU to come into the UK.
"And of course from July 1 we're going to have customs declarations on top of that. So these are going to be real tests over whether border control posts are ready.
"And I think there are some concerns that some of the suppliers in the EU who send the food through that we all eat everyday, are they completely ready for what they are going to face?
"What is going to happen in terms of vehicles that turn up in Great Britain that don't have the correct paperwork accompanying those goods?
"We won't run short of food, that's very clear, but we might not have the choice 24/7 that
we have become used to as consumers.
"It's those type of products, the tomatoes, the strawberries, the apples, where I think we would have some issues with maintaining that 24/7 supply. That's where you might get some gaps on the shelves if this doesn't go well from April."
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland would have faced more empty food shelves if the Government had not intervened
on Brexit grace periods, Brandon Lewis has said.
The Northern Ireland Secretary defended the UK'S move to unilaterally extend an exemption period applying to the movement of GB supermarket goods into the region, insisting efforts to agree extensions had run out of time. Mr Lewis also made clear that the move was not an attempt to undermine the protocol.