EU needs ‘common sense’ to avoid food crisis, says M&S

Marks & Spencer has warned that Brexit rules will “hurt” food imports because officials in some EU countries do not work at the weekends.

The supermarket, which made a £201 million loss last year, met with its European food suppliers over fears of “significant disruption” when strict border controls come in next month.

One concern raised was that, in some member states, the offices issuing certificates for animal foods only operate Monday to Friday.

“Modern food systems rely on importing food seven days a week,” Marks & Spencer said in a letter to suppliers.

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“This working pattern will cause significant disruption to that import schedule and exacerbate the HGV driver shortage.”

Britain is thought to need 100,000 extra HGV drivers, while mainland Europe has a shortfall of around 400,000.

According to The Times, the letter called for the UK and EU to show “common sense” amid worries that neither is prepared for the new import rules from October 1.

Marks & Spencer claimed to be pushing both sides to introduce “practical and modern” border controls by digitising the paperwork needed to ship food across the Channel.

The grocer is thought to employ 14 vets “ticking boxes and filling out forms” to certify exports to the Republic of Ireland.

“Our proposed solution… is for a digitally enabled Facilitated Movement Scheme that still meets all of the EU standards,” commercial director George Wright wrote.

“The goal of such a scheme would be to simplify the documentation burden, for both UK and EU businesses, whilst still demonstrating standards are being met. 

“We hope a scheme like this will be adopted and we would value your support in engaging and advocating for this approach with your local governments.”

Marks & Spencer is worried that neither side has enough manpower to check the paperwork, given that 25 per cent of Britain’s food comes from Europe.

Wright said it was “entirely unrealistic” that 100 per cent of the containers of food shipped to Britain will “pass seamlessly through EU and UK ports”.

He added: “It is clear from the information you have shared with us – as well as our own intelligence – that neither the UK government or EU member state authorities are going to be ready.

“If we don’t see a more common sense approach to compliance, this is going to hurt everyone involved.”

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