As Brexit looms ever nearer, the keys issues for retail have emerged. According to the BRC (British Retail Consortium), the key issues are as follows:
Minimal friction customs arrangments
Certainty to remain in the UK for retail workers from the EU
The BRC has been researching the aforementioned key areas. Tariff-free trade is important. A number of retailers have gathered together in order to support the government in securing a deal. They consider a deal ‘essential to consumers’. Basically, this means that in order for additional tariff costs not to be passed to consumers, current tariff-free trade needs to continue, primarily on foodstuffs.
However, the BRC findings suggest that these tariffs will not affect nearly 50% of non-food products coming from outside the EU. Because the EU tariffs on non-EU products will no longer apply once the UK can set its own tariffs, costs could be reduced by up to 12%. So, good news there, clothes and furniture might get cheaper.
Minimal Friction Customs Arrangement
This is vital in order to keep supply chains operational, to prevent the cost of goods from shooting up and to ensure varied products in UK stores. A scenario whereby there is no customs deal could lead to an increase in customs declarations. These declarations could increase by as many as 200million per annum. That is a lot of additional paperwork which requires a lot of additional time and probably incurs charges. Or, as the William Bain (Policy Advisor -Europe and International) eloquently puts it, ‘a lot of bureaucracy’.
Certainty for EU Citizens working in the UK
To paraphrase BRC findings in this area, 170,000 retail workers are from the EU.
However, this number increases if we are only looking at London. 1 in 10 retail workers are from EU countries. If there is no certainty for EU workers already working in the UK, this would clearly pose a problem to staffing for the retail industry.
The BRC has made a series of recommendations as to what is needed in this key area.
For the full reports by the BRC, please see the useful links and references below: