Panic-buyers hit the supermarkets to stockpile food amid No Deal Brexit fears
PANIC buyers have hit the supermarkets to stockpile food amid fears of a No Deal Brexit.
The UK and the EU today vowed to continue negotiations – but some nervous shoppers were seen leaving Costco with huge hauls of loo roll, beer and baguettes.
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The British Retail Consortium today urged shoppers not to panic- and said retailers are increasing stocks to ensure a "sufficient supply of essential products".
Any impact to the food chain is likely to affect fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long, officials say.
Without a deal, after January 1 the public will face more than £3billion in food tariffs and higher prices throughout 2021, the trade body said, adding that the uncertainty is making it harder for businesses to prepare.
And today, huge queues were seen outside Costco in Thurrock, Essex, as Brits scrambled to get supplies in.
One shopper was pictured with a huge haul of toilet roll, which was popular with panic buyers during the first coronavirus lockdown.
Others were seen with trolleys full to the brim with beer, cereal and other essentials.
It comes after ministers told supermarkets to begin stockpiling food and other goods ahead of a possible No Deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson today declared the UK will not be locked in an EU "orbit" as Brexit showdown talks continue.
Earlier this week, the PM warned that it’s “very, very likely” there won’t be agreement – prompting fears in Government about panic buying.
Long queues of lorries have already been building up on either side of the Channel as companies begin stockpiling goods ahead of the UK leaving the single market on January 1.
Ten-mile long queues were forming in Calais on Saturday while the A20 in Kent saw lorries backed up to three miles.
Now with fears of panic buying mounting, ministers have told supermarkets to begin stock piling, The Sunday Times reports.
“There was a conversation a week ago when ministers said prepare for no-deal,” the consultant said.
“This weekend the message is that it’s no-deal. Supermarkets and ministers are hugely worried about panic buying.
"They saw what happened over Covid when people started hoarding toilet rolls and know how quickly it can go wrong.
“That will be nothing compared to what will happen. Meat supplies will be fine and fruit comes from South America but there are likely to be shortages of vegetables for three months.”
British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: "Retailers would have no choice but to pass on some of these additional costs to their customers, who would see higher prices filter through during 2021.
"Moreover, new checks and red tape that will apply from January 1 will create an additional burden for retailers and their customers.
"Retailers are doing everything they can to prepare for all eventualities, increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer life products so there will be sufficient supply of essential products.
"While no amount of preparation by retailers can entirely prevent disruption, there is no need for the public to buy more food than usual as the main impact will be on imported fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers."
British Chambers of Commerce president Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith told Sky News the UK needs a deal "as soon as possible", adding: "We need to understand how we are going to trade and what the rules are."
"I think it's very difficult to be ready because there are a number of areas where we don't have any detail at all," she said.
"We don't understand anything around quota tariffs or quotas. We don't understand anything in detail about rules of origin.
"We're not going to know what tariffs are going to be imposed on any goods leaving or coming into the country, meaning we won't know the price."
Supermarkets already introduced rationing this year amid panic-buying prompted by the coronavirus lockdown.
In March, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Asda set a limit of three for any item and two for essential products, such as toilet roll and handwash.
Retailers were forced to act after empty shelves for loo rolls, pasta and hand wash extended to fresh produce, bread, meat plus lower levels of cereals.
But there are hopes that a deal could still be struck after Boris Johnson and Ursula von der Leyen pledged to continue talks.
The pair today released a joint statement confirming they will continue their discussions in a positive show of unity.
They said: “We had a useful phone call this morning. We discussed the major unresolved topics.
“Our negotiating teams have been working day and night over recent days.
“And despite the exhaustion after almost a year of negotiations, despite the fact that deadlines have been missed over and over we think it is responsible at this point to go the extra mile.
“We have accordingly mandated our negotiators to continue the talks and to see whether an agreement can even at this late stage be reached.”
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab today said the UK had worked "very hard" at a technical level during the recent negotiations in Brussels – but argued that there needed to be political "willing" to secure a trade deal.
He told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: "I called in to check in with our team in Brussels, they've worked incredibly hard.
"You remember the PM has made clear we want to leave no stone unturned, so we've been at it very hard at the working technical level, with all the usual jousting of positions
"But what really matters is what the EU is willing at a political level to commit to."
The Foreign secretary added that two vital issues remained at stake in the negotiations – fisheries and the 'level playing field'.
It comes as post-Brexit trade talks reached their final day as the two sides continue to try and hammer out an agreement.
The outlook after discussions on Saturday was described as "very difficult" but officials said the Prime Minister is determined to explore every option to secure a free trade agreement.
A Government source said: "The Prime Minister will leave no stone unturned in this process, but he is absolutely clear: any agreement must be fair and respect the fundamental position that the UK will be a sovereign nation in three weeks' time."
After failing to reach a deal after a face-to-face meeting in Brussels earlier this week, Mr Johnson and EU chief Ursula Von Der Leyen decided to push their negotiating teams to continue to work up until this evening.
But despite the ongoing talks, government sources reportedly put the chances of Britain leaving without a deal at 80 per cent, the Mail on Sunday reported.
A source said German Chancellor Angela Merkel was "determined to make Britain crawl across broken glass" rather than reach any compromise.
It comes amid warnings that national security could be at risk from a No Deal Brexit.
According to Max-Peter Ratzel – who headed Europol – the UK should be “very worried” at the prospect of failing to reach an agreement with the EU.
Britain will automatically leave Europol on 1 January 2021 and already UK police chiefs have expressed fears that a No Deal Brexit will harm security.
An extra 900 border officers will be stationed in the key Channel port of Dover to ensure food, medicine and other vital supplies are not disrupted.
And Royal Navy gunboats are on standby to guard British waters from EU trawlers entering UK coastal waters after December 31, when transitional arrangements end.
'10-MILE LORRY QUEUES'
Meanwhile, lorries have been caught up in 10-mile monster queues as their drivers try to get essential goods into the UK before the Brexit deadline.
If there is a No Deal Brexit, companies face the prospect of tariffs being slapped on goods and customs checks leading to long delays.
According to sources close to the president of the Hauts-de-France region, home to Calais, there have been 50 per cent more lorries on the roads there in the past three weeks.
“November and December are always busy months, but extreme stockpiling because businesses are trying to get goods into the UK before 1 January is the main cause,” the source told the Guardian.
French police are delaying hundreds of trucks at the roadside to cope with the soaring traffic flow.
Sebastien Rivera, a top regional official for the National Road Transport Federation, an industry group that represents some 350 companies that send their goods to the UK blasted the situation as "catastrophic".
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