The main supermarkets in the United Kingdom and fast food chains such as KFC and McDonald's warned on Monday that a drastic departure from the European Union (EU) on March 29 would cause a shortage of food and an increase in prices.
In a letter to deputies in the House of Commons, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Asda, Marks & Spencer, The Co-op or Lidl anticipate significant disruptions in supply chains if the country leaves the EU without a bilateral agreement and it is governed by the tariff regulations of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In the letter, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warns that a hard Brexit would cause delays in the entry of products through customs, which would lead to a deficit of certain foods, and an increase in prices as a result of the new rates.
"We are extremely worried, because our customers will be the first to experience the realities of a Brexit with no agreement," the signatories say. "We anticipate significant risks on the ability to maintain the variety, quality, and durability of the food that our customers expect in our stores, and there will be an inevitable pressure on the price of food, higher transportation costs, devaluation of the pound and tariffs," they add. "90% of lettuce, 80% of our tomatoes, and 50% of our soft fruit come from the EU at that time of year," they say.
The Commons will vote on Tuesday a neutral government motion together with the amendments presented by different deputies, which, even though are not binding, will serve to show where the parliamentary majority resides and define the next steps in the Brexit process. Many of the amendments are aimed at avoiding a hard exit from the EU or promoting a new referendum, and others call for changes to the pact proposed by May, which was widely rejected on January 15.
A hard Brexit would cause 12,400 deaths
Not only supermarkets are raising the alert, doctors are also speaking out. A hard Brexit could cause 12,400 more deaths in the next decade in England due to heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases, according to a study published in the BMJ Open, the online version of the British Medical Journal.
The analysis, carried out by experts from the Imperial College University of London, justified the increase in deaths from this type of pathologies due to the possible reduction of fruit and vegetable intake by the British that the increase in prices derived from the exit from the European Union could cause.
84% of the fruit that was consumed in the United Kingdom in 2017 was imported, as well as 48% of the vegetables, and the cost of these transactions will increase significantly after the departure from the United Kingdom of the EU, stated the people who wrote the report.
Their calculations showed that an abrupt departure from the EU bloc would cause the greatest increase in prices of these imported products, for example bananas would cost 17% more, citrus fruits 14%, and tomatoes almost 15% more.
The intake of fruits and vegetables in more than half of the British population is already below the recommended levels, but it would fall even further if there is a hard Brexit with the EU, they added.