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Gove’s no-deal Brexit fresh food claim ‘categorically untrue,’ says Northern Ireland retail chief

Aodhan Connolly
Aodhan Connolly

The trade body for Northern Ireland retailers has said it is “categorically untrue” fresh food supplies would be unaffected in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

Michael Gove, the cabinet minister responsible for the Government’s no-deal preparations, said “there will be no shortages of fresh food” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

He also said food prices "may" go up but would also come down.

Responding to the claims made by Mr Gove on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) said fresh food supply would be hindered in a no-deal Brexit and it was impossible to mitigate the impact as fresh food could not be stockpiled.

He also said the impact of price rises will be felt much more in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK.

He said: "The retail industry has been crystal clear in its communications with Government over the past 36 months that the availability of fresh foods will be impacted as a result of checks and delays at the border.

"Indeed, the Government’s own assessments showed that the flow of goods through the channel crossings could be reduced by 40-60% from day one, as would the 'availability and choice' of some foods.

"The NIRC’s own assessment has shown that soft fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, tomatoes and lettuces, would likely see reduced availability as they are largely imported during the winter months.

"What [Mr Gove] said this morning bears no relationship to what our members and suppliers are telling us."

Pressed on whether there would be shortages of fresh food as a result of a no-deal Brexit, Mr Gove said: “Everyone will have the food they need.”

Asked if food prices would increase, Mr Gove said: “I think that there are a number of economic factors in play.

“Some prices may go up. Other prices will come down.”

Mr Connolly continued: "While retailers continue to work with their suppliers to maintain stocks of non-perishable goods and plan ahead for any disruption caused by a no deal Brexit, it is impossible to mitigate it fully as neither retailers nor consumers can stockpile fresh foods.

"The reality remains that a no deal Brexit in October would present the worst of all worlds for our high streets and those who shop there. Retailers will be preparing for Christmas, stretching already limited warehousing capacity, and the UK will be importing the majority of its fresh food from the EU, magnifying the impact of border delays.

"With households in Northern Ireland having half of the discretionary income of Great British households not only will availability be an issue but we will feel the cost rises first and hardest.”

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