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Brexit hits Merton food supply chain

The Domestic Bursar of Merton College has revealed that a combination of the national lockdown and Brexit have disrupted the college’s food supply chain.

In an email sent to Merton students, the Domestic Bursar warned that “our food supply chain is currently being impacted by the effects of the national lockdown and post-Brexit border arrangements with the EU”. This disruption would affect the food available at short notice. As a result, food served at the college may be different from what the menu listed. The email did not specify which areas of the supply chain are affected.

Merton will still provide catering services for students who return in Hilary.

The news comes as concern grows over the impact of Britain’s exit from the European Union on trade in and out of the country. Iconic British businesses such as John Lewis and Fortnum & Mason have suspended deliveries to the EU and Northern Ireland due to new trade regulations. UK businesses now how to calculate the cost of tariffs for any goods they export to the EU, along with providing further paper work including a £150 health certificate for each consignment of food.

Some EU firms have stopped delivering to the UK following the imposition of VAT rules, which require the tax to be collected at the point of sale instead of at the point of entry to the UK. Several mail freight companies including DHS, UPS and FedEx/TNT have increased the cost of their services to the UK to account for new customs clearance costs.

One example of disruption cited in Parliament was the £17,500 tariff charged on a shipment of bananas from Ghana upon arrival at Portsmouth. As a member of the European Union, the UK had a trade deal with Ghana worth £722 million in exports and £498 million in imports including fruit, cocoa and oil. The UK government had not managed to roll over the trade deal by January 1st, although a statement by the Department for International Trade have said that an arrangement with the African country “within weeks.”

The ports at Dover and Folkestone have been relatively quiet since the UK left the EU, which is partially down to pre-Christmas and Brexit stockpiling undertaken by some retailers. However Holyhead, the UK’s second largest ferry port, has experienced significant disruption as goods being exported to Northern Ireland have to face new bureaucracy.

Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the country remains in the EU single market for goods while the rest of the UK has left. This means that food being transported to Northern Ireland from the UK will have to undergo the same customs checks and paperwork as exports to EU countries such as France. Marks & Spencer have warned that 15% of food lines could be unavailable in its shops in Northern Ireland as a result of new import tariffs and other red tape.

Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove has warned hauliers to expect “significant additional disruption” at the Dover-Calais crossing over the coming weeks. He stressed the need for the government to “communicate the precise paperwork that’s required in order to make sure that trade can flow freely.”

Merton College has been approached for comment.

This article has been updated to include a statement from Michael Gove MP.

Image: DWR/CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

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