Brexit – Good or Bad for the Food Industry?

Please note this article was originally written and published on our website in 2017 – we have now updated sections to reflect the current situation in 2023.

However, you look at it, Brexit (and its aftermath) will have a profound impact on every UK industry, but whether it is positive or negative will depend largely on the individual factors at play that affect every sector differently.Looking at the possible ramifications for the chilled food industry, it is apparent that these could be widely felt.

2023 Editor’s note: Now that Brexit is “complete”, there have certainly been ramifications to the food industry. It has not been as clear cut as hoped either, with definite guidelines from the Government on aspects such as food labelling delayed multiple times, and now not expected to apply until January 2024.

Customs Clearance

It seems highly likely that the process of getting goods in and out of Europe to or from the UK will take longer than at present once Brexit has been completed. This could be due to more paperwork, or more invasive procedures, but it’s likely the time spent at the border will be extended.

It might only be by a few minutes or it could be hours or days depending on helpful our European cousins want to be – on balance, we consider this to have a neutral impact as our Insulated Shipping Systems and Reflective Air Bags will keep the goods inside at their required temperature to accommodate for delays without any increase in wastage.

2023 Editor’s note: There are now border checks for foodstuffs, which vary depending on the type of food being shipped, where it is being shipped to, and who is transporting it. These do add some delays so it is imperative that chilled foodstuffs are kept at a constant temperature using food grade coolants such as ice packs and proper temperature controlled packaging systems.

For more on the current customs and border controls in place, please see:

Driver Shortages

EU drivers are heavily leaned upon in the logistics sector, which could mean that we see shortages if tighter immigration controls are introduced.

However – not all is lost. The Trailblazer apprentice scheme is just one of the ways the UK is working to invest in UK trained heavy goods vehicles drivers, which would aim to make up any deficit and also provide more employment opportunities for those with a licence.

2023 Editor’s note: We certainly have seen driver shortages since Brexit and also because of COVID-19 – these combined have served to create a shortage issue that has not yet fully resolved. In 2022, The Road Haulage Association reported a shortage of around 100,000 drivers although this has been seen to come down more recently to around 70,000. This is still a massive figure however, so with driver shortages an ongoing problem, there will most likely continue to be consequences of this including late deliveries, supply shortages and supply chain issues in general.

The Trailblazer Scheme, designed to recruit new drivers to the industry, is still going strong, now known as the Large goods vehicle (LGV) driver C + E”. This is designed to train drivers for large goods vehicles with a Gross Combined Weight of over 7500kg, including Articulated and Draw Bar vehicles.

Exchange Rates

Depending on which way goods are going, this could have a very beneficial impact for UK traders. If the Euro increases in value against the Pound, which seems likely, it makes both our packaging products and our clients food products cheaper for them, so sales are likely to increase.

Conversely, tougher US dollar rates will impact oil prices, and therefore plastic and transport costs down the line – as these costs impact all countries, on balance we believe currency rates will work in the food industry’s favour.

2023 Editor’s note: Sterling has been impacted by Brexit, and COVID too. In 2021 it was reported that the pound had falled to around 15% weaker than the Euro than it had been pre the referendum in 2016.

With the current financial turmoil in the UK and 2022 being one of the most volatile years on record, we are still seeing the pound struggle to make back lost ground.

Buyer Sentiment

It is entirely possible that European consumers and businesses will be somewhat miffed that the UK has chosen to leave the EU, but recent events do show that we perhaps aren’t the only country unhappy with the direction the EU is taking.

Many countries are likely to hold an overall warm sentiment towards the UK’s people, in part due to our history in two World Wars but also our thriving tourism industry and our friendly (if somewhat reserved) nature, so it’s likely our leaving the EU won’t leave us looking like the bad guys to the end buyers from abroad. We think that the UK is to be admired – we are rich in culture, services, and choice, and as such can’t really be ignored on a global stage as we are a top ten global economy. This all adds up to a belief that rather than turn their backs on Made in Britain, overseas customers will be just as likely to purchase as ever, subject of course to quality being maintained and good prices.

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