THE UK food industry has asked the government to waive aspects of competition law to allow firms to co-ordinate and direct supplies with each other after a no-deal Brexit reports the BBC.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said it repeatedly asked ministers for clarity on a no-deal scenario.
Existing rules prohibit suppliers and retailers discussing supply or pricing.
The industry says leaving in the autumn could pose more supply problems than the original Brexit date last March.
The FDF, which represents a wide range of food companies and trade associations, said: “We asked for these reassurances at the end of last year. But we’re still waiting.”
The boss of one leading retailer told the BBC: “At the extreme, people like me and people from government will have to decide where lorries go to keep the food supply chain going. And in that scenario we’d have to work with competitors, and the government would have to suspend competition laws.”
The FDF’s chief operating officer Tim Rycroft told the BBC that in the event of a no deal, there would be “selective shortages” of food that would go on for “weeks or months”.
“It may be the government is going to come to us and say, ‘can’t you guys work together to ensure that remote communities or the elderly or children – at risk groups – don’t suffer from these shortages’,” he said.
“We’re happy to help, but the CMA can fine companies up to 10% of turnover if they are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour. So we wouldn’t be able to do that without some pretty cast iron reassurances.”
He said the industry had asked for these reassurances at the end of last year, but despite “support” from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, they were still waiting.
A government spokesman said: “The UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October and our top priority is supporting consumers and businesses in their preparations for Brexit.
“We are working closely with the food industry to support preparations as we leave the EU.”
There is a precedent for the government or competition authorities to act in this way, with the government pointing to four previous examples of such orders having been made – three in relation to the defence industry (one of which was subsequently repealed), and a fourth made regarding arrangements for the supply of oil and petroleum products.
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