The United Kingdom is struggling with a disruption of shipments entering the country due to a new twist in the coronavirus situation – just ahead of the impending disruption of Brexit.
A new, more contagious mutation of the coronavirus has emerged in the UK, prompting travel bans imposed from both within and outside the country. As a result, France, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, and the Netherlands have stopped all incoming travel or traffic from the UK.
This ban has the effect of interrupting food shipments, especially fresh food. The UK gets up to 85% of its produce from EU countries in the winter. While trucks are free to enter the UK, European shippers will be reluctant to send them unless they’re sure the drivers can come back.
Trucks are already piling up at ports like Felixstowe and Southampton, where the British Retail Consortium says that shipping costs are rising by up to 25%. The port of Dover, which handles 17% of incoming goods to the UK, had trucks backed up more than 10 miles, CNN reports.
The pandemic-related ban is a possible preview of the troubles that are in store for British consumers after the New Year. That’s when the UK will lose its favored trading status with the European Union, a result of having voted in 2016 to leave the EU in a “Brexit.”
The chairman of Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, told Bloomberg that his company is trying to stockpile canned goods and other products with long shelf lives in anticipation of a no-deal Brexit. He predicted shortages of fresh foods but added that it should be only for a month or two.