// The BRC launches report on UK-EU negotiations: A Fair Deal for Consumers
// Without a pragmatic agreement, consumers face higher costs and reduced availability of goods, BRC says
// Lobby group also urges government to establish import/export processes and all necessary infrastructure now
Consumers face higher prices and reduced availability of goods if the government fails to make a pragmatic agreement with the EU, the BRC has warned.
The agreement pertains to regulatory checks at ports in any post-Brexit deal, with the BRC urging the government to establish import and export processes and all necessary infrastructure now.
The news comes as the industry lobby group launched its report A Fair Deal for Consumers: EU Trade Roadmap, which outlines the retail industry’s priorities for the upcoming government negotiations with the EU.
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It also comes ahead of the launch of negotiations next month for a new trade agreement since the UK left the EU at the end of January.
The BRC said its roadmap calls for pragmatic solutions on future compliance and regulatory checks that will apply from January 2021.
Without these, it warned that consumers would face higher costs and reduced availability of goods.
The BRC highlighted that almost 80 per cent of all the food that the UK retailers import comes from the EU, making the EU negotiation “particularly important for these essential goods”.
While the report makes clear that there is no possibility of return to frictionless trade under the government’s red lines, it proposed key mitigations that could reduce the impact on consumers and retailers.
These include a zero tariff trade deal, cooperation with the EU to minimise trade friction, coordination on VAT, customs and excise procedures, advance information on new checks and paperwork, and timely construction of necessary infrastructure at UK ports.
“The issue is simple – higher tariffs and extensive checks will harm consumers, retailers, and the UK economy,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said.
“The government must set about to negotiate a zero tariff agreement that minimises checks and red tape otherwise it will be consumers who suffer as a result.
“The introduction of excessive or avoidable checks would mean businesses face a mountain of paperwork to be filled out by an army of newly trained staff, coupled with exhaustive checks on thousands of lorries every day.
“And the result for consumers would be higher costs and reduced availability on the shelves.
“Meanwhile, new IT systems will need to be created and tested before the 1st January 2021.
“Border Control Posts must be built, with people hired and trained to run. Unless these are ready and tested.
“The government has no time to lose.”