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Brexit news: Irish PM says still possible to find ‘sensible solutions’ to NI Protocol issues

Updates as they happened from Westminster and beyond

Sam Hancock,Tom Batchelor
Thursday 26 August 2021 17:19 BST
Related video: Nando’s temporarily closes stores across UK due to supply issues

The UK and the European Union can still find sensible solutions to issues over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements with the right political will, Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin has said.

“A positive and constructive future partnership is in everyone’s interests but it will only be delivered if there is a relationship of trust and a willingness to deliver on commitments entered into,” Mr Martin said after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The EU had “demonstrated commitment, patience and creativity in its work to implement the withdrawal agreement and the protocol,” he added.

It comes as supermarkets and hauliers have issued a warning to shoppers that supply struggles could mean they face long-term higher food prices.

A shortfall of around 100,000 drivers, which has been driven by thousands of European drivers leaving during the pandemic and not returning, as well as “high numbers” of workers retiring, is being blamed for the trouble, hauliers told PA.


Good morning, and welcome to The Independent’s rolling Brexit coverage. Stay tuned as we delve into the food shortages affecting Britain’s fat food chains and supermarkets.

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 07:58

Food shortages could ‘cancel Christmas,’ industry warns

Britain’s post-Brexit supply chain crisis could “cancel Christmas” and continue to cause food shortages well into 2022, industry leaders have warned.

Boris Johnson’s government has been urged to ease immigration rules so some EU citizens who left the UK during Brexit can return and help fill major gaps in the workforce, report Adam Forrest and Holly Bancroft.

The head of the Co-op supermarket said on Wednesday that current food shortages were the worst he had ever seen, while Iceland’s boss warned that supply disruption could see Christmas “cancelled” for some families this year.

Read the full piece:

Brexit food shortages could ‘cancel Christmas’ and last into 2022, says industry

Government warned supply disruption could last ‘at least 18 months’

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 08:04

‘We’re working incredibly hard,’ says foodservice group boss

Coral Rose, managing director of the Country Group foodservice group, spoke to BBC R4’s Today programme this morning.

She explained how food shortages were impacting their customers, which include care homes and schools, and what was being done to try and remedy the situation.

“We have two problems: supply of products into our warehouses and supply from our warehouses to customers,” Coral Rose, managing director of the Country Group foodservice group, told BBC R4’s Today programme earlier. “When we are having trouble getting the supply of a particular product, we’ll then speak to someone else and try and source it from elsewhere. So, we might not be able to get the customer the brand they like but we do everything to ensure they can supply their customers.”

It isn’t easy, though, Ms Rose warned. “We’re working incredibly hard and we have to ensure, for example, that for every substituted product, there is no change to allergens , because that’s very important to take note of. So we’re trying our very best.”

She added: “We’re taking drastic action, such as buying smaller delivery vehicles to ensure drivers don’t need special HGV licenses, because there is going to be increased pressure as schools reopen and people continue to holiday in the UK.”

Asked if this was “bad” for the environment, due to the risk of increasing the number of cars on the road, Ms Rose admitted it “wasn’t the ideal situation” but said it was “all we can do to service our clients” properly.

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 08:12

Businesses call for relaxation of post-Brexit visa rules – report

Ministers are under pressure to relax post-Brexit migration rules to unblock Britain’s worst supply-chain crisis since the 1970s, with business leaders warning that continued disruption could ruin Christmas, according to a report.

Industry bosses said urgent changes to the visa system were required as retailers struggle to keep shelves stocked, and restaurants run out of food and drink in the meltdown triggered by Covid and Brexit, according to The Guardian.

Estimates put the shortage of workers needed to drive lorries, handle goods in warehouses and pick fruit and vegetables at hundreds of thousands. Company bosses and trade groups are now warning that if ministers refuse to allow more EU workers into the UK, they risk a deeper crisis this winter.

An analysis of ONS labour market figures by the newspaper confirms the extent of the fall in eastern Europeans in the UK workforce since the start of the pandemic, and after Britain left the EU earlier this year.

The number of Romanian and Bulgarian workers in the UK, who would typically fill food production roles, has plunged by almost 90,000 since the end of 2019, the investigation found. Employees from eight eastern European countries, including Poland and the Czech Republic, have fallen by more than 100,000, or 12 per cent too.

Meanwhile, industry sources told the paper that in addition to lorry driver shortages, there was a lack of tens of thousands of seasonal agricultural workers, and 14,000 needed in meat-processing plants.

Supermarkets are concerned about the demands expected from schools reopening and the holiday season (PA Wire)
Sam Hancock26 August 2021 08:31

Public reacts to food shortage warnings

Social media users have begun reacting to the news that Brexit-caused food shortages are taking Britain by storm.

“Having worked in food logistics until recently, I can assure you that the primary reason for acute driver shortage is that drivers from the EU have returned home due to poorer €/£ exchange post referendum,” one man wrote.

Another said the government was trying to blame the pandemic for what was clearly a Brexit issue.

Elsewhere, someone criticised ministers for attempting to take “our country back, which we hadn’t lost in the first place” via the divorce deal.

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 08:35

Food shortages will end when workers are paid more, say HGV drivers

While the country is hardly on the brink of famine, it is clear that the UK has a problem getting food to where it needs to be and the situation looks set to worsen.

Iceland’s boss is among those to have raised the prospect of empty supermarket shelves at Christmas thanks to an ongoing shortage of lorry drivers, writes Ben Chapman.

However, the causes of empty shelves are also more complicated than just a shortage of lorry drivers, Ed Sweeney, professor of logistics at Aston Business School, told The Independent.

Food shortages will end when workers are paid more, say HGV drivers

Problems have been brewing for years in UK’s food supply chain, where drivers sleep in their cabs after 70-hour weeks on insecure contracts

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 09:01

UK to depart from GDPR in post-Brexit privacy overhaul

The government will scrap “pointless” web cookie requests as part of a move to replace the EU’s data laws with a new post-Brexit regime, a Cabinet minister has said.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, unveiled a string of new measures designed to harness the power of data to drive growth and create jobs.

The move will see large parts of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) scrapped in a bid to cut down on red tape and deliver a so-called Brexit dividend.

Mr Dowden told The Telegraph he planned to get rid of “pointless bureaucracy” such as cookie requests while also upholding privacy.

“There’s an opportunity for us to set world-leading, gold standard data regulation which protects privacy, but does so in as light touch a way as possible,” he said.

A consultation into the future of the UK’s data regime will be launched in the coming weeks.

As part of the reforms, the government also named New Zealand privacy commissioner John Edwards as its preferred candidate to lead the UK data watchdog.

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 09:42

When will McDonald’s milkshakes be back in British stores?

It isn’t just Greggs experiencing shortages. McDonald’s have not been able to put a time frame on when their signature milkshakes will be back on the menu, but simply said they were working to return them “as soon as possible”.

The fast-food chain has run out of milkshakes and bottled drinks in all its 1,250 British outlets after being hit by supply chain shortages, reports Holly Bancroft.

A spokesperson for the retailer told The Independent in a statement: “We are currently experiencing some supply chain issues, impacting the availability of a small number of products. Bottled drinks and milkshakes are temporarily unavailable in restaurants across England, Scotland and Wales.”

Read the full piece here:

When will Mcdonald’s milkshakes be back in British stores?

The fast-food chain has run out of milkshakes and bottled drinks in all its 1,250 British outlets after being hit by supply chain shortages

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 09:55

Fishing industry warns of supermarket seafood shortages

Channel 4’s Ciaran Jenkins reports the following:

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 10:10

Sam Hancock26 August 2021 10:22

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