UK retail warns shoppers face higher prices if no EU trade deal

The UK Government also needs to secure continuity of other existing trade deals covering the UK and then focus on countries where there aren't now preferential trade deals in place. Around 80% of food imports come from the European Union and the bloc plays a big role in supply chains for other items such as clothing and homeware. The scant progress comes in spite of the United Kingdom and European Union agreeing to step up the pace of discussions in recent weeks, following five previous rounds of ill-fated trade negotiations.

The BRC report is a follow up of "A Fair Deal for Consumers" campaign launched past year to stand up for consumers everywhere and ensure households can enjoy the same great value in shops long into the future. Last week's round of talks was cut short, with both sides saying that, while they wanted an agreement, they had yet to overcome the gulf in positions that could see Britain leaving the transition period without a trade deal. Deal or no deal, the United Kingdom is facing a new trading regime from 1 January as the country exits the single market and the customs union, forcing customs and food health checks on goods entering the country.

The trade body said the new policy, which sees a temporary cut to 5% from 20% for cafes and restaurants, may benefit retailers located near food venues. "Tariffs are lower so the risk to consumers of not agreeing a deal is much less than for food". "Time spent in a truck waiting in a queue or time spent at the port perhaps having to relodge documents is time that the goods don't spend on the shelves, so it means the consumer doesn't get the best experience in terms of having the freshest products on the shelves", he said. Andrew Opie, the BRC's director of food and sustainability, said: "The next few months are critical to the living standards of millions of people in the UK".

Retailers, already struggling with the impact of the coronavirus crisis, will be dealt a further blow if consumers are faced with price hikes. "Many UK shoppers experienced disruption in the run up to lockdown; without a deal, the public may face an even bigger challenge at the end of the Transition period". It also wants a deal that minimises the impact of non-tariff barriers such as regulatory checks 'to ensure maximum choice, availability and quality for consumers while not increasing prices'.

Andy Sumpter, retail consultant at ShopperTrak, said: "It really was a month of two halves, with footfall down 80% at the start of June before rising significantly post re-opening, though still far down on a year ago".

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