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Brexit: British supermarket chain in EU sees bare shelves and early closures

Chain hit by shortages of custard creams and other favourites forced to turn to Irish suppliers

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 10 February 2021 08:49 GMT
British supermarket in EU sees bare shelves after Brexit

A specialist supermarket selling British produce in the EU is struggling to keep food on its shelves because of post-Brexit supply problems.

Stonemanor, a small chain of UK food stores in Belgium, has experienced significant shortages of scones, shortbread and other favourites bought by expats and Anglophiles.

Shelves normally filled with goodies like custard creams and Irn Bru have been left bare by red tape difficulties faced by Britain’s food exporters.

The company has even been forced to shut up shop over recent weekends because of depleted stock levels – having been unable to get a single delivery of food from the UK since 1 January. 

“Our main delivery is still unconfirmed,” Ryan Pearce, manager at the store on the outskirts of Brussels told the BBC. “If that doesn’t come in it looks like we may have to close for a longer period of time until we can guarantee supplies.

“You can’t have a supermarket running with no stock on the shelves. We’re shipping hundreds of products in one truck and each product needs a different set of paperwork to go along with it.”

Shop assistant Tracy Smith added: “Digestive biscuits are missing, popcorn is missing, Walker’s shortbread is missing, oatcakes are missing, various cheeses and milk. We’re even down to the last scone.”

Stonemanor has been forced to turn to alternative suppliers delivering directly from the Republic of Ireland to get at least some goods on the shelves –including sausages and bacon.

Irish delivery firms are now skipping the UK altogether and using new direct ferry routes set up between Ireland and France.

Marks and Spencer stores in the EU have also faced empty shelves since the Brexit trade deal was implemented at the beginning of last month. The company said problems with customs paperwork would “significantly impact” its food sales on the continent.

Fortnum & Mason has suspended sales of food items to the EU due to the burden and cost of complex new paperwork.

British exports to the EU fell by a whopping 68 per cent in January, according to figures shared by the Road Haulage Association (RHA). The organisation has written to the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove pleading for an “urgent intervention” to ease the crisis.

However, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett suggested the government was not listening. He said it was “frustrating and annoying that ministers have chosen not to listen to the industry and experts”.

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