Over the past few weeks, food shortages have been a growing concern in the UK, fuelled by the ongoing effects of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government has been urged to deploy the army to replace over 100,000 lorry drivers, primarily from Eastern Europe, who have been unable or unwilling to work in the UK due to post-Brexit rules and the UK’s Covid travel restrictions. In addition to a shortage of truck drivers, confusion over customs declarations and delays in transporting goods have contributed the exacerbating the problem.
In some areas, certain supermarket shelves have been left completely bare, while others have expressed disbelief, claiming they’re yet to notice the shortages and ultimately labelling the concerns over food shortages a hoax.
But with new Brexit checks set to come into effect from 1st October, the food shortages look set to worsen. From that date, animal and plant products imported into the UK from the EU will require extra paperwork and border checks. The government hopes these checks will be “smooth and efficient”, but based on how Brexit has been handled since the referendum in June 2016, those reassurances aren’t particularly comforting.
Higher prices also expected
Moreover, the food industry says higher prices will be a practical guarantee as European producers pass on the cost of this red tape to British consumers. Just-in-time supply lines are also expected to be disrupted by the new arrangements, which will almost certainly bring about more food shortages.
In an extra twist to the new arrangements, both exports and imports of animal products will require inspection and certification from a vet as of 1st October. However, the UK is experiencing a huge shortage of vets at present, having been reliant on a flow of qualified vets from European countries. Between 80-100 vets used to arrive in the UK each month, but since the end of the transition period, only 20 per month are coming in, leaving a significant shortfall.
Lack of government funding for border control post
To conduct new checks, attempts to set up a border control post in Portsmouth has been impeded by a lack of government funding and no real knowledge over how much will flow through it. An estimated sum of £2.5 million was required to cover the costs of 30 new staff, but the city council claims only £500,000 has been given.
Speaking to Hampshire Live, Portsmouth City Council’s regulatory services manager, Richard Lee said: “We’ve had a significant year of challenge but we remain confident and optimistic in our direction of travel.
“I have some confidence we will be carrying out the checks by October but I can offer absolutely no guarantees about our readiness at this point.”
The government’s failure to provide enough support for the Portsmouth border control post has been criticised by cabinet members, with councillor Hugh Mason, cabinet member for city development, saying it “demonstrated the government’s incompetence.” While council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said, “council taxpayers should not be picking up the government’s bill for incompetence over Brexit”.