Brexit: What may ‘no deal’ mean for food and medication?

A supermarket basket Image copyright Getty Images

The Federal Government has been suggested to hurry up the publication of its steerage for a ‘no deal’ Brexit, after a survey of 800 companies via the Institute of Administrators found that fewer than a 3rd of them have performed any Brexit contingency making plans.

Recently, the Brexit debate has been ruled by the prospective implications of the united kingdom leaving the eu without any kind of deal in place subsequent March.

a few of the details have been pretty alarming, however the complete element approximately contingency making plans is that it has to take account of the worst-case situation.

So what may ‘no deal’ mean for two necessities of way of life – food and medicines?


The United Kingdom produces roughly 60% of the food it consumes. Of the rest 40%, approximately three-quarters is imported straight away from the ecu Union, together with so much of unpolluted fruit and greens like citrus fruits, grapes and lettuces.

Symbol copyright Getty Pictures Image caption Lettuces are extraordinarily delicate to any disruption within the provide chain

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was reluctant to provide MPs many details while he appeared ahead of the Exiting the ecu Make A Choice Committee, insisting that he desired to wait until he may “set it out in a accountable and full type”.

But when Mr Raab was asked straight away if the federal government used to be bearing in mind stockpiling meals, he mentioned: “it could be wrong to describe it as the government doing the stockpiling.

“of course, the idea that we handiest get meals imports into this united states of america from one continent isn’t suitable, however we can have a look at this issue in the round and make sure that that there may be adequate meals supply.”

The implication that it used to be businesses instead of the federal government that are supposed to be doing any stockpiling has no longer long past down neatly throughout the food industry.

“if they expect the industry to be stockpiling things, they’ll be in for a surprise,” said one executive working for a major supermarket chain.

“It’s nonsense. there is completely no capacity in the united kingdom supply chain for added meals to simply sit down around.”

For something, you can’t stockpile perishable food. That Is evident. And a huge amount of unpolluted produce arrives from the european on a daily basis.

“the problem is the federal government doesn’t appreciate what that suggests in practice,” mentioned Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium.

“As An Example, within the run-up to final Christmas ONE HUNDRED THIRTY lorry-numerous citrus fruit got here via Dover from Spain each day. that is the form of volumes we are talking.”

Symbol copyright Getty Pictures Image caption Stockpiling is just not an option for many meals shops

So border delays, due to sudden customs and regulatory checks, may in no time lead the distribution system to break down. For recent produce that would imply shorter shelf lives, and rising costs within the device.

Business assets say the government has urged that it would stay regulatory exams at borders to a minimum in the event of no deal, in an effort to maintain site visitors transferring. But that wouldn’t lend a hand so much if tough checks have been being carried out on the european side.

“If there were massive border hold-ups, after three days there could be gaps at the shelves in rather brief order,” mentioned Chris Sturman, chief executive of the Meals Garage and Distribution Federation (FSDF).

What approximately chilled or frozen meals?

the trouble is there may be little or no spare garage capacity. in keeping with the FSDF, there are 385 refrigerated warehouses around the us of a, however greater than NINETY% of refrigerated warehousing is in constant use and margins are extremely tight.

Supermarkets are undoubtedly making contingency plans. But rather than involving stockpiling food, which one executive defined as a “non-starter”, they revolve round how they might find a way to supply produce from different countries if Eu provide chains are significantly disrupted.

they have got performed that ahead of. As An Example, bad weather in Spain remaining 12 months meant lettuces had been quickly imported through air (and therefore more expensively) from Latin America, and supplies were rationed. The 2015 commercial action in Calais additionally promoted retailers to diversify their supply chains.

However those are quick-time period fixes and on the second the whole industry is trying to plan for an result that is unattainable to foretell.

“we are not going to run out of meals if there may be no deal,” stated Ian Wright from the FDF. “there is some way to increase capability, to grow extra of specific vegetables, to cut out the waste that occurs at the second.

“however the brief-time period disruption may well be severe. The Federal Government must needless to say.”

A spokesperson for the dept for Exiting the ecu Union said the federal government used to be making ready for all situations however had no plans to stockpile meals.

“The Government has well-based techniques of running with the food industry to stop disruption – and we will be using those to make stronger preparations for leaving the european. Customers will continue to have get admission to to a spread of various merchandise.”


Every Other massive issue is drugs. each month the uk exports 45 million packs of medicines to the eu and EEA countries, and imports greater than 37 million. Once More, extended disruption at borders may threaten provides of drugs and other essential healthcare merchandise – each in the united kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.

there may be extra scope with drugs than with meals to increase shares of things like capsules, but different imported medicine reminiscent of insulin ceaselessly wish to be refrigerated and will due to this fact pose larger logistical challenges.

So what has the government mentioned?

Well Being Secretary Matt Hancock instructed the house of Commons Health Choose Committee just lately that “we are working with industry to organize for the prospective need for stockpiling within the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit”.

“This comprises the chain of medical supplies,” he mentioned, “vaccines, clinical units, scientific consumables and blood products.”

Business sources confirm that they are in shut contact with the federal government to make sure it is familiar with their plans, and that it knows what the practical implications of leaving and not using a deal may well be.

The Uk-based totally pharmaceutical corporate AstraZeneca told the BBC on 17 July that “as a safety internet” it was increasing its medication stockpiles across Europe via approximately 20% in coaching for a no-deal Brexit.

AstraZeneca’s chief govt, Pascal Soriot, has due to this fact stated the corporate is doing the whole thing it will probably to be prepared, and to ensure sufferers do not run out of their medications.

“We generally run approximately 3 months of stock for our drugs,” he said. “we’re expanding this via one month so that now we have additional inventory to protect towards a disorderly Brexit, when you will.”

the company is not expanding its world inventory, nevertheless it is finding more of it in the united kingdom and Europe to be available if necessary.

different massive companies, France’s Sanofi and Switzerland’s Novartis, have additionally showed plans to increase stockpiles.

But I remember that the opposite large UNITED KINGDOM-primarily based pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, has determined for the instant now not to extend the additional stocks of gear that it holds in the uk.

GSK was once no longer able to say why it has taken this sort of decision, mentioning industrial confidentiality.

the focus of its stocks is generally on medicines which can be not essentially available from competitors or typical choices.

GSK is certainly making ready for Brexit even though. It has already began the method of transferring the eu-huge marketing authorisation for greater than 1,000 drugs registered in the uk to different EUROPEAN nations, mostly to Germany.

And GSK’s annual file released in March 2018 finds that the company is spending £70m in one-off costs hooked up to Brexit, with additional ongoing prices of as much as £50m consistent with year depending on what preparations are made in the long term.

Image copyright alicjane Image caption The Uk imports greater than 37 million packets of medicines every month

But most likely the biggest challenge in the health sector is faced by way of those who depend on merchandise which are best of clinical use for a few days or every now and then a couple of hours.

specifically, this means radio isotopes which might be very important for things like cancer scans.

“A ‘no deal’ situation shall be tricky for the nuclear drugs community,” stated John Buscombe, of the British Nuclear Medicine Society. “We calculate that 60% of the radiopharmaceuticals we use come from the european, affecting as many as SIX HUNDRED,000 patients consistent with yr.”

At the moment they come through street and rail across the Channel.

“in the event that they arrive too past due,” Mr Buscombe said, “they’ll not be useable because they’re going to have decayed an excessive amount of.

“They might be flown in, but that will lead to increased costs that the NHS can have to pay.”

When asked about the provision of clinical radio isotopes by means of the Well Being Select Committee, Mr Hancock stated: “we’re running with industry to verify that precisely that type of drugs, or quite diagnostic want, is taken care of… it is extremely essential for me, as Secretary of State, to verify that people will have get entry to to the medications they want.”

What do you want BBC Reality Take A Look At to investigate? Get in touch

Read more from Reality Take A Look At

, , , ,