FWD’s Final Word: Brexit is back

Are we talking about Brexit again?

I’m afraid so, yes. After the panic around the March deadline, everyone took a breather for a while but it’s back at the top of the agenda again now.

Do we know what’s happening?

Not yet. As the representatives of wholesalers to government, FWD has been working on this issue for nearly three years, with the same issues being raised: availability of products; availability of people to work in our sector; and how changes to customs and border regimes will affect our supply chains.

… and?

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about what happens next. Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was rejected three times by parliament and the EU has made it clear that is its final offer.

So where do we go now?

The new PM believes it is “feasible” to agree a deal before 31 October. It would be tight though, as there isn’t a lot of time to negotiate and then get agreement for any new deal in parliament. The PM also suggested we could leave the EU and then make a deal during the transition period afterwards, but there’s a problem with that.

Which is?

There is no transition period after a no-deal Brexit. The UK would go straight to WTO rules with all its trading partners, needing to negotiate at least 750 deals to replace those we currently have through the EU. We’d have to anticipate disruption in our supplies and inflation in prices where there is scarcity.

So what do we do?

FWD’s advice to our members is to prepare for no deal, as they did back in March. This time it’s more complicated as warehouse space is already booked in the autumn for Christmas stock and some wholesalers are reluctant to be marched up that hill again only for the government to call another retreat. Additionally, as it’s outside the UK growing season, we will be far more reliant on imported fresh produce than we were in March.

Is there the possibility of another extension then?

It’s quite likely. Forcing a no-deal Brexit through parliament would not be easy, but it would be foolish not to prepare for a 31 October exit. FWD has collected the best advice for wholesalers on what the trading environment would look like at and we recommend the food industry’s Brexit contingency planning resource:

What do you think will happen?

That’s not for us to say, but we are in regular contact with the government and other industry colleagues on our members’ behalf and we’ll continue to advise on what the consequences of each option will be for their businesses and customers.

Brexit FWD wholesaler