Leading retail bodies in Ireland and the UK have come together to issue a stark warning on how a no-deal Brexit will affect shoppers.

With less than 40 days until the UK leaves the EU, Aodhán Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Thomas Burke, director of Retail Ireland, and William Bain, head of EU and international at the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have shared their concerns that a no-deal Brexit will squeeze household budgets across Ireland and the UK, and will lead to reduced availability of some goods.

The retail organisations have highlighted how increased tariffs and new regulatory checks would lead to increases in the cost of making fresh food and drink available to consumers. These tariffs could see increases of up to 45% on some everyday food items should the UK and EU27 revert to World Trade Organisation Most Favoured Nation Tariffs. While these could be the top-line tariffs, there are also concerns regarding the cost implications of non-tariffbarriers such as checks and delays.

Aodhán Connolly says: “A no-deal Brexit brings tariffs, customs processes, checks and costs which our industry – and Northern Ireland families in particular – cannot afford to absorb. Our households already have half of the discretionary income of British households and less than those in the Republic of Ireland. A no-deal Brexit will hit us first and hit us hardest. This is not acceptable.

"A hard Brexit means a hard border and the disintegration of supply chains that have been built up over 40 years of EU membership. This is not a binary choice for Northern Ireland between trade with the UK and trade with the EU. Our economy is built on access to both markets and we need that to survive. No deal makes NI a less competitive place to do business and a more expensive place to live.”

Thomas Burke of Retail Ireland comments: “A no-deal Brexit would have devastating economic consequences and must be avoided. However, regardless of the type of Brexit agreed over the coming weeks, retailers will see an increase in their operating costs arising from checks at ports and other supply chain disruption. In the current operating environment, these additional costs simply cannot be absorbed and will have to be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. 

"Our members continue to work hard to plan for all possible eventualities, but the ongoing uncertainty is damaging our industry and impacting our customers."

William Bain adds: “It is not just the people on the island of Ireland that this will affect. Those in Great Britain will see the price of goods from Ireland and Northern Ireland rise. Our supply chains are highly integrated, with food ingredients coming from both Ireland and the EU, and 60% of the £2b of Northern Irish agri-food bound for Great Britain crosses the Irish sea via Dublin. This will affect the price of shopping in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Maidenhead in the same way as it will in Belfast or Dublin, with cost rises."

The trade bodies were also united in their call for a solution, arguing that the time for brinksmanship and political games has long past.

"A no-deal outcome would have devastating economic consequences, potentially jeopardising years of positive economic development and integration across the islands of the UK and Ireland. It is imperative that this is avoided.”