‘Brexit Border Tax’ to push up food prices in Britain, warns London MP

Importers will have to pay a new charge to bring food into the UK through Dover from the end of April (PA Wire)
Importers will have to pay a new charge to bring food into the UK through Dover from the end of April (PA Wire)

Food prices are to rise due to a “Brexit Border Tax,” a London MP has warned ahead of new checks within weeks on imports from the EU.

Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, urged the Government to do more to highlight the impact of the border changes which will hit at the end of the month.

“We have to talk about Brexit and the border tax this Government is about to introduce before it’s too late,” she tweeted.

“I hope I am wrong, but fear it will cause chaos in just 28 days time.”

She raised the prospect of some food firms being put off importing supplies to Britain due to the new border checks.

Food suppliers have warned of higher prices and the risk of empty supermarket shelves due to a new post-Brexit border charge being introduced at the end of the month.

Importers will have to pay up to £145 to bring mixed consignments of products such as cheese, salami and fish through the port of Dover or the Eurotunnel from April 30, according to guidance published on Wednesday.

The levy will be charged per type of product imported, and will vary from £10 to £29 depending on the risk each products present.

It will also be capped at £145 for mixed consignments.

The fee is intended to cover the cost of operating the border control posts introduced after Brexit, and will not apply to goods brought into the UK for personal use.

But importers warned the new charges could lead to higher prices for consumers.

The Cold Chain Federation’s chief executive, Phil Pluck, said: “Ultimately, this will increase business costs and food prices and potentially lower choices for the shopper.”

Mr Pluck added it was “extremely disappointing” that the charges had been announced “at the last minute”, leaving businesses with little time to make any necessary changes.

He said: “This is in no way helpful to UK-based importers and the whole EU supply chain. It reinforces the Government’s slapdash approach to a vital part of UK PLC.”

James Barnes, chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, said the levy announcement “confirms our fears that in just one month, UK horticulture’s competitiveness will be again hit by a cost hike for no material gain”.

Adding that the policy “feels like it is constructed on the back of an envelope at best”, Mr Barnes warned that the charges would “undoubtedly increase costs” and increase the likelihood of empty shelves in supermarkets.

The food firms are the latest sector to complain about the impact of Brexit, with farmers having protested outside Parliament recently, with dozens of tractors, over how Britain’s splintering away from the European Union has harmed their businesses.

Ministers are reluctant to talk about the economic harm to the UK from Brexit but the Government’s watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility has laid out the damage which some economists compare to a “slow puncture”.

Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has trumpeted a number of new trade arrangements, including most recently with Texas, but there is no sign of the free trade deal with America which was promised by Brexiteers.

Responding to the border fee announcement, shadow minister Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “British shoppers and businesses already suffering with the Conservative cost-of-living crisis will - rightly - be deeply worried about prices being driven up yet again.”

A Government spokesman said the levy was “within and at the bottom end of the range which we consulted with industry on”.

He added: “The charge is designed to recover the costs of operating our world-class border facilities where essential biosecurity checks will protect our food supply, farmers and environment against costly disease outbreaks entering the UK through the Short Straits.”

About a quarter of the UK’s food imports pass through Dover and the Channel Tunnel.

The introduction of post-Brexit border checks has been delayed several times over fears they could fuel inflation, but began to be introduced from the start of this year.

Food inflation has fallen over the past year, reaching five per cent in February after hitting 19.6 per cent in March 2023, its highest recorded level for 45 years.