Former Sainsbury’s head Justin King has taken aim at the government by claiming there is a “lack of political will” to solve Brexit’s “long-term issues”.
It comes as ministers denied that leaving the EU was to blame for Britain’s lorry driver crisis.
King, a Remain supporter in the 2016 referendum, argued that Brexit’s impact would outstrip that of Covid-19.
He told the Convenience Conference in London: “In two years’ time you are all going to realise Brexit was bigger news than Covid.
“Labour relative to your business is going to become a much more expensive resource.”
“I think it’s already clear that’s true.”
Big supermarkets are offering four-figure bonuses for new HGV drivers, while Waitrose is paying some over £53,000 a year.
Around 25,000 hauliers are thought to have returned to the EU since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
“Our labour situation in the UK is now structural and long-term, with a real lack of political will to sort it,” King said.
Last week, transport secretary Grant Shapps said Covid-19 was the “number one cause” of Britain’s supply chain struggles.
The Grocer reports that King, who called for a second referendum in 2018, also argued that trade with Ireland would fundamentally change.
“There is a border in the Irish Sea,” he said.
“It is not going away and forever that is going to change the nature of businesses.”
In the summer, Marks & Spencer chairman Archie Norman said Brexit had forced the supermarket to slash product ranges in its Northern Irish stores.
It comes as Brexiteer Michael Gove was appointed to head a government taskforce to prevent food shortages as the festive season approaches.
Boris Johnson reportedly joked that he “doesn’t want to have to cancel Christmas again”.