- Shelves would quickly empty in British stores in the event of a no-deal Brexit on October 31, due to a shortage of warehousing in the run-up to Christmas.
- Retailers are planning to stockpile goods like food, clothes, and medicine in the run up to the United Kingdom’s scheduled exit on Halloween, amid fears it could be a no-deal departure.
- However, many of the warehouses used to stockpile goods in the run-up to March 29 are now no-longer available, as they have already been booked for storing large quantities of stock needed for Christmas.
- The prospect of a no-deal Brexit still looms as political deadlock in Westminster continues.
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LONDON – Shelves in British stores would quickly empty in the event of a no-deal Brexit at the end of October, due to the warehouse space required to stockpile goods already being largely booked up for the Christmas period, industry leaders involved in contingency planning have told Business Insider.
Much of the warehouse space previously allocated to cope with a no-deal Brexit at the end of March, is now unavailable for a no-deal exit on October 31, with much of it booked up to three years in advance.
One business leader familiar with the no-deal plans of British retailers said that one major food company had used warehouses to stockpile around 24,000 pallets of stock in the run-up to a potential no-deal exit in the spring.
However, none of this space is available at the end of the year, as it is already booked to cope with the strains of Christmas. Demand for many goods including food, clothes, and medicines rockets at this time of year.
They told Business Insider that warehousing space is “at maximum capacity over Christmas in any normal year,” and that the risk of a no-deal Brexit in October was creating demand for additional space which does not exist.
“Christmas is already a difficult period… Brexit is a pain in the arse which has fucked everything up even more.”
UK ministers and businesses have warned that leaving the European Union without a deal would slow down the movement of goods across the border and lead to temporary shortages of certain goods.
Although the six month delay to Brexit, agreed by Theresa May and European leaders this month, took the immediate threat of a no-deal off the table, businesses are worried about there being no breakthrough within that time.
Talks between the UK government and the opposition Labour Party are already close to collapse.
Meanwhile, the unofficial race to replace May as Conservative party leader and prime minister has ramped up, with those candidates in favour of a no-deal, such as the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, leading the pack.
The numerous companies that intend to stockpile goods in the run-up to October 31 are set to activate their plans in July if Members of Parliament still haven’t agreed on a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Business leaders are concerned that while many companies are proactively planning for a Halloween no-deal, and have gained valuable experience from previous no-deal preparation, some have become complacent.
“To do it once was irksome. To do it twice in three weeks was a pain. Three times is going to be really, really difficult for businesses,” a business figure who is working with May’s government on Brexit told Business Insider.
They said that the House of Commons majority against no-deal has become a “reassuring balm” which was leading some company bosses to be less worried about the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
“They say ‘no it won’t happen, they [MPs] have stopped it twice’,” the business leader said.
Pauline Bastidon, Head of European Policy at the Freight Transport Association, said that a “late October [Brexit] presents particular challenges for the logistics sector, not least because of preparations for Christmas.”
She told Business Insider that “stockpiling is likely to be an issue, not least because there is only a finite amount of warehousing space which could made available at relatively short notice, and logistics businesses are currently looking to identify additional options to ensure that the supply chain remains resilient throughout the period.”
Opposition politicians have warned that the UK is dangerously unprepared for a no-deal Brexit.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour MP and supporter of anti-Brexit group Best For Britain, told Business Insider: “This is just another unintended consequence of the government’s chilling lack of foresight.”
He added: “It’s clear no amount of planning will prepare Britain for a cliff-edge Brexit.
“Leaving without a deal at the end of October would cause irrevocable disruption to businesses, see jobs slashed and leave communities laid bare across the UK.”
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