Tesco pulls British products from Irish stores amid Brexit uncertainty

// Tesco apologises after incorrectly blaming Brexit for removal of British products from Irish stores
// Chairman of Small Businesses accuses Tesco of using “Brexit uncertainty as cover”
// Supermarkets are preparing for shopper stockpiling ahead of Brexit decision

Tesco has issued an apology after reportedly using uncertainty around Brexit as a reason to remove a number of British products from its Irish stores.

According to The Times, the supermarket giant was accused of using Brexit as an excuse to take a supplier’s goods off the shelves of its Irish stores last month, while failing to “properly explain” why the decision had been made. 

In an email correspondence seen by The Times, Tesco told an English manufacturer that it would no longer stock its products in Irish outlets after examining “the viability of taking them across from the UK post Brexit”.

Tesco added that it had “no choice” but to delist the company’s goods following a review of UK-produced lines which sell less than ten cases in Ireland.

The grocer said it would look at the products again when “we know the full impact of trading across the water”.

The anonymous founder of the small business said they were surprised at the retailer’s decision and asked for clarification.

Tesco has now told The Times the decision was made as part of a routine “range simplification”.

“As part of a range simplification exercise Tesco Ireland reviewed some products that sell in low quantities,” a Tesco spokeswoman said.

“Unfortunately we are aware of an instance when we removed a low volume product but did not properly explain the reason for this decision to our supplier and we apologise for that.”

Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry told The Times that “big businesses have a responsibility to treat suppliers honestly and fairly”.

“In this case, Tesco haven’t done that and instead have used Brexit uncertainty as cover to pull a small supplier’s product.”

The news comes just days after Tesco was forced to confirm it had no plans to import beef from South America post-Brexit into Ireland, amid concerns over the country’s export trade.

Tesco UK beef manager Hannah Donegan insisted South American beef was “out of the question” for the supermarket giant’s shelves as customers were discerning about quality produce, adding that carbon footprint was also key.

Donegan said the retailer only sells Irish and British beef in the UK and has no plans to source from elsewhere, as much of the product in South America does not meet Tesco’s strict quality standards.

Meanwhile, tales of no-deal Brexit stockpiling started to emerge last week as a man from Oxford spent more than £600 in Tesco in preparation for a no-deal Brexit, in which he bought 144 rolls of toilet paper and 50 tins of food.

While stockpiling food may seem extreme to many, a report by Kantar at the start of the month found supermarkets have already begun preparing for Brexit’s impact on its customers, and where possible, planning for less predictable behaviour from shoppers.

Tesco stated it didn’t return fridges it rented for Christmas, and adding that it will be hiring extra customs officials to get their produce fast tracked.

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