With a no-deal Brexit looming on the horizon, the British government has reportedly issued warnings to supermarket chains to begin stockpiling food and other essentials.
Negotiations between the UK government and the president of the European Union Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, are still continuing, but with less than three weeks to go until the deadline, hopes are not high for a deal.
“There was a conversation a week ago when ministers said prepare for no-deal. This weekend the message is that it’s no-deal,” a senior consultant to one of the big supermarkets told the Sunday Times. “Supermarkets and ministers are hugely worried about panic-buying,” he added. “They saw what happened over Covid when people started hoarding toilet rolls and how quickly it can go wrong.”
Andrew Opie of the British Retail Consortium, said, “The main impact [of] Brexit will be on imported fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.” He added that the shortages could last for months if no deal is reached between Britain and the EU, resulting in the imposition of tariffs.
The UK government has also told suppliers of medicines, medical devices, and vaccines to stockpile six weeks’ worth at secure locations in the UK, although Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted that there is no immediate danger of shortages. Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Raab said, “Well of course, with things like vaccines and more generally medical supplies the NHS and DHSC (Department of Health and Social Care) already have a widespread program of stockpiling and security of supply.”
Meanwhile, there are ongoing reports of long delays on motorways at the English port of Dover, with companies blaming the situation on stockpiling.
Shadow Justice Secretary, David Lammy, accused the prime minister of “gambling with public supplies.” He tweeted that it was “beyond reproach to see the government telling supermarkets to stockpile food because of its own ideology and incompetence.”