Tons of food bound for Europe from Britain could be left to rot in lorries, be turned back at borders or not transported at all due to delays caused by new UK-EU export red tape, peers have warned.
The House of Lords EU Environment Sub-Committee wants ministers to give food, farming and haulage businesses two to six months to adjust to the new export regime which starts on 1 January 2021, after hearing concerns about the post-Brexit system from industry bodies.
In a letter to Environment Secretary George Eustice the committee has asked the Government to secure a grace period to help worried businesses adapt to the new rules.
Lord Teverson, Chair of the EU Environment Sub-Committee, said: “Given that the Government’s negotiations have left industry with just two weeks to prepare, this grace period seems like a proportionate request.
“The main message from businesses is that the Government isn’t ready for 1 January, which means that they can’t be ready either. They don’t know what rules will apply and say that Government guidance is sometimes contradictory.
“Without clear, coordinated information it is impossible for businesses to adjust their practices, which will mean that from 1 January their produce may not be picked up by hauliers in the first place, might be turned around at the border, or in the worst case could spoil in vans because of the border delays arising.
“Industry wants to make the new arrangements work and has been heeding Government warnings to get ready, but ministers must explain exactly what the changes will be and provide the support that farmers and businesses need.”
The committee has also asked for clarity on what tariffs would apply to British food and agriculture exports if the Government does not agree a trade deal with the EU.