UK supermarkets have been told to stockpile food and essential goods as Britain heads towards a no-deal Brexit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to talk with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday to decide whether their trade talks have a future.
Johnson said on Friday that it was “very, very likely” talks would fail.
British ports are already experiencing congestion and delays due to stockpiling ahead of a no-deal Brexit.
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Boris Johnson’s government has told UK supermarkets to start stockpiling food and other essential goods with just hours to go until the EU’s deadline for a Brexit trade deal.
The UK Prime Minister is due to speak with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday lunchtime when they will decide whether or not a deal is feasible before Britain is due to leave EU trading rules on December 31.
On Friday, Johnson said it was “very, very likely” that Britain would fail to strike a trade deal before January.
As negotiations continued over the weekend, ministers in Johnson’s government have told UK supermarkets to start stockpiling goods due to expected shortages caused by a no-deal Brexit, the Sunday Times reported.
“There was a conversation a week ago when ministers said prepare for no-deal. This weekend the message is that it’s no-deal,” a senior consultant to one of the biggest supermarkets told the paper.
The UK could experience shortages of vegetables and other goods it sources heavily from Europe for months to come, the Sunday Times reported, with prices for consumers likely to soar due to newly-imposed EU tariffs.
UK shops are already experiencing shortages and delays due to congestion at ports caused by Brexit stockpiling.
Representatives from the UK toy industry told Business Insider this week that many popular children’s toys will be unavailable to consumers this Christmas because of the delays.
The British Retail Consortium’s Andrew Opie told Insider that at some ports, “we have seen a huge surge in demand for space which has created delays and hundreds of thousands of pounds in congestion charges for unloading goods.”
“Retailers now face higher costs than ever before, with some seeing 25% week-on-week rises for shipping.
“While these rates continue to rise, and the disruption at ports and in shipping continues, retailers face significant challenges with the import of some items ahead of Christmas.”
Asked if there would be shortages of medicines and other essential supplies, the UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the National Health Service was stockpiling but added that “there may be shifts” in supplies.
However, he insisted that reports of shortages in supermarkets would not come to pass.
“We’re not going to see shelves running bare or any of the scaremongering stories we’ve heard,” Raab told Times Radio.
British ports and freight companies are already reporting long delays and tailbacks on either side of the English Channel due to companies stockpiling supplies ahead of Britain’s exit from the Brexit transition period.
The disruption is due to hit the UK economy hard after a year of economic pain triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson’s government is preparing to spend billions on propping up UK industries in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Sunday Telegraph reports.
Farming, fishing, and car manufacturers are expected to be especially badly hit by Britain’s sudden exit from the European single market.
Both sides remain gloomy about prospects of a breakthrough in talks on Sunday.
A senior UK government source said 0n Saturday evening that “talks continue in Brussels, but remain very difficult.”
They added: “The Prime Minister’s position remains the same: any deal must be fair and respect the principles of sovereignty and control.”
Dominic Raab told the BBC that there was a “very high bar” for talks to continue beyond Sunday.
“What really matters is the political will,” Raab told The Andrew Marr Show, adding that the EU needed to make a significant shift on the issues of fishing rights and the terms of the UK’s access to the European single market.
Ireland’s Taoiseach Michael Martin told Marr that both the UK and EU need to make a deal.
“A no-deal would be very bad news for all of us,” he said
“It would be an appalling failure of statecraft if we are not able to get a deal over the line.”