Wednesday 21 March 2018

No deal risks major food shortages, warns Sainsbury chief

Theresa May. Photo: PA
Theresa May. Photo: PA Business

Brexit would lead to an unprecedented food shortage if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the chief executive of the country's second-biggest grocer has said.

"The impact of closing the borders for a few days to the free movement of food would result in a food crisis the likes of which we haven't seen," said J Sainsbury CEO Mike Coupe. "It's inconceivable to me that there won't be a solution found."

Tensions are simmering between London and Brussels, with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, pictured, saying no one in her position could ever agree to the draft Brexit treaty published by the EU. May is seeking to get the EU to sign on to a transition phase at a summit of leaders later this month, but EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, has warned that any agreement could still unravel before Britain's scheduled exit in March 2019.

Almost half of the UK's food is imported. Trade barriers would be especially damaging to its fresh-food retailers, who rely heavily on the unencumbered movement of perishable goods. In 2016, the UK imported £22.4bn (€25bn)worth of meat, fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. EU President Donald Tusk warned that frictionless trade is impossible outside the customs union.


UK building growth picks up

Growth in Britain's struggling construction industry picked up slightly in February, led by the commercial sector, but uncertainty linked to Brexit continued to weigh on order books.

The IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI rose to 51.4 from 50.2 in January, at the top end of forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists. A number above 50 indicates expansion.

Construction output suffered its biggest drop in more than five years during the final three months of 2017, according to official figures last month, marking the third consecutive quarter of decline.


Boris 'committed' to defence

Britain will remain committed to the security and defence of Central Europe after Brexit, and will protect the rights of Hungarians working in the UK, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said.

After meeting Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto in Budapest, Johnson said without elaborating that he assumed Britons living in Hungary would get a "good" deal too.

"It is vital to stress that the UK will remain committed to the security and defence of our friends in Central Europe," Johnson told a news conference.


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