Many food products wouldn’t be available after a no-deal Brexit, retailers and food chains warn (Justin TALLIS)

London (AFP) – Bosses at top supermarkets and food chains on Monday urged British lawmakers to avoid a no-deal Brexit or risk reducing the availability of many products.

On the eve of parliament’s vote on unlocking the Brexit impasse, 10 food chiefs plus industry body the British Retail Consortium (BRC) called on MPs to work “urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March and removes… risks for UK consumers.

“We anticipate significant risks to maintaining the choice, quality and durability of food that our customers have come to expect in our stores, and there will be inevitable pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs,” they said in a letter to MPs.

“We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no-deal Brexit,” they added.

The letter was signed by supermarkets Asda, Co-op, Costcutter, Lidl, Sainsbury and Waitrose, as well as food retailer Marks & Spencer joined KFC, McDonald’s and sandwich chain Pret A Manger.

However, it was not signed by Britain’s biggest retailer Tesco nor German discounter Aldi.

– ‘Significant disruption’ –

“On behalf of our businesses and the wider food industry we want to highlight to you the challenges for retailers and the consequences for millions of UK consumers of leaving the European Union without a deal at the end of March,” the letter said.

“While we have been working closely with our suppliers on contingency plans it is not possible to mitigate all the risks to our supply chains and we fear significant disruption in the short term as a result if there is no Brexit deal.”

Almost one third of the food consumed in the UK comes from the European Union, they stressed.

“In March the situation is more acute as UK produce is out of season: 90 percent of our lettuces, 80 percent of our tomatoes and 70 percent of our soft fruit is sourced from the EU at that time of year.

“As this produce is fresh and perishable, it needs to be moved quickly from farms to our stores.

“This complex, ‘just in time’ supply chain will be significantly disrupted in the event of no deal,” the letter added.

After British MPs overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal earlier this month, they will vote again Tuesday on what they want her to do next as the March 29 departure deadline looms.

May has scheduled a day’s debate on Tuesday and MPs have introduced amendments which they hope could indicate which options may have majority support in parliament.

Several amendments demand changes to the “backstop” arrangement in May’s deal, which could see Britain in effect tied to EU trade rules in order to avoid a hard between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

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