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The ongoing supply chain crisis and labour shortage, which some are saying will lead to empty shelves at Christmas, could be compounded by upcoming rule changes for trade between the UK and EU.

Under the government’s phased plan for introducing import controls following Brexit, businesses will be required to complete declarations for goods entering the UK from the EU from 1 January 2022.

Further pressure

Raoul Ruparel, a former Downing Street adviser on Brexit, told Politico: “The UK is due to introduce full checks and controls for imports from the start of next year which could place further pressure on supply chains”.

He added that the agri-food sector will be particularly affected, noting the “additional admin costs” that new health certification requirements from 1 October 2021 are likely to bring on a sector “that is already facing challenges.”

Several factors

The British Retail Consortium and Logistics UK also cited the new customs checks among the “several events” that will “add further pressure” to supply chains in a letter they wrote to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.

The start of the new school year and build-up to Christmas were also listed as factors that are about to add strain to supply chains.

“With Covid-19, Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc,” said David Wells, the Chief Executive of Logistics UK.

Christmas threat

Even without these logistical challenges, the IOE&IT reported yesterday how recruitment problems were already predicted to threaten key Christmas supplies – including pigs-in-blankets.

According to the British Meat Processors Association’s chief executive Nick Allen, its members were already struggling with a 12-13% staff shortfall.

He warned this could cut production of key Christmas foodstuffs by a third.

Lack of staff

Reports of there being a lack of staff come on the back of ONS statistics that show job vacancies hit a record high of 953,000 in the three months to July. However, there are now 100,000 fewer EU workers in the UK.

Meanwhile one million employees are still on furlough.