M&S takes aim at EU’s ‘fandango of bureaucracy’ on imports

Marks & Spencer has branded the EU’s border rules “pointless bureaucracy” as the government delays checks on food imports.

Products including meat and fish would have needed health certificates from October 1, but changes have been pushed back by ministers wary of crippling the supply chain as Christmas approaches.

The EU has checked UK goods travelling into the bloc since the start of the year.

Speaking to LBC, Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman claimed export rules had added 24-hour delays and “serve no purpose” as food standards are aligned with the EU.

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

He added that deliveries to France, Ireland and the Czech Republic had been hit by Brexit regulations.

“EU rules for governing borders, and their customs union are totally out of date… we’ve got a fandango of bureaucracy,” he argued.

“Our fresh sandwiches and ready meals, going to Ireland or France are delayed by about a day – that is not good if you are a sandwich.

“We are getting about 80 per cent of our product through, less than that in France because the French, predictably, are draconian.”

Marks & Spencer is currently mulling whether it can keep its 20 French stores open.

Business leaders have told the government that delaying the checks is not the answer to Britain’s supply issues.

The National Farmers’ Union said the move would go “some way” to keeping shelves stocked, but the main issue was labour shortages.

Britain is thought to have a shortfall of around 90,000 delivery drivers.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents manufacturers, said that big overseas suppliers are already prepared for export rules.

FDF chief executive Ian Wright also claimed members had “invested really considerable sums in training, in getting new relationships with customs agents”. 

“That’s all going to be wasted to some degree if it doesn’t start on 1 October,” he said.

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