The UK government has been forced by MPs to reveal its Operation Yellowhammer report on the ‘reasonable worst case planning assumptions’ in the event of a no deal Brexit on 31 October.
The analysis, dated 2 August, could be concerning for the UK catering equipment industry, as a large proportion of appliances are imported from EU areas.
Number 3 in the report’s ‘key planning assumptions’ states: “France will impose EU mandatory controls on UK goods on Day 1 No Deal (D1ND) and have built infrastructure and IT systems to manage and process customs declarations and support a risk-based control regime.
“On D1ND, between 50-85% of HGVs travelling via the short Channel Straits may not be ready for French customs. The lack of trader readiness combined with limited space in French ports to hold ‘unready’ HGVs could reduce the flow rate to 40-60% of current levels within one day as unready HGVs will fill the ports and block flow.”
The paper goes on to warn: “The worst disruption to the short Channel Straits might last for up to 3 months before it improves by a significant level to around 50-70% (due to more traders getting prepared), although there could continue to be some disruption for significantly longer.”
It further advised: “In the event of serious disruption, the French might act to ensure some flow through the short Channel crossings. Disruption to flow across the short Channel Straits would also cause significant queues in Kent and delays to HGVs attempting to use the routes to travel to France.”
Estimating a reasonable worst case scenario, the Operation Yellowhammer summary said: “HGVs could face maximum delays of 1.5-2.5 days before being able to cross the border. HGVs that are caught up in congestion in the UK will be unable to return to the EU to collect another load and a proportion of logistics firms may decide to avoid the route should there be significant and prolonged disruption.”
Nevertheless, there were better prospects elsewhere, with the report concluding: “Analysis to date has suggested a low risk of significant sustained queues at ports outside of Kent which have high volumes of EU traffic, but the Brexit Delivery Group will continue to work directly with stakeholders at those ports to support planning readiness.”
The other end of the catering supply chain could also be affected, with foodservice operators being subject to fresh food shortages. According to the paper: “Critical dependencies for the food supply chain (such as key input ingredients, chemicals and packaging) may be in shorter supply.
“In combination, these two factors will not cause an overall shortage of food in the UK but will reduce availability and choice of products and will increase price, which could impact vulnerable groups.”
In an overall summary for UK plc, the report concluded: “Business readiness will not be uniform – in general larger businesses across sectors are more likely to have better developed contingency plans than small and medium sized businesses. Business readiness will be compounded by seasonal effects, impacting on factors such as warehouse availability.”
However, leaving the EU without a deal on 31 October is currently illegal, due to the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill, which passed through the Houses of Commons and Lords and was given Royal Assent on 9 September.