No-deal Brexit would mean empty shelves, supermarkets warn

Ireland dismisses calls for backstop to be scrapped

Anti Brexit protester Steve Bray who is almost permanently demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament watches the traffic as he holds up placards in London, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May faces another bruising week in Parliament as lawmakers plan to challenge her minority Conservative government for control of Brexit policy.  (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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Retailers raised the prospect of empty supermarket shelves and shortages of vital necessities should a no-deal Brexit go ahead as deadlock over the process deepened.

Eleventh-hour manoeuvring is likely as a number of crucial votes take place on Tuesdayt in Parliament that may leave open a series of endgames before the March 29 deadline.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the government would present a fresh Brexit proposal to be voted on by MPs "as soon as possible" after those votes.

Mrs May has so far failed to present a plan deemed acceptable by parliament.

As Conservative MPs worked on a guillotine clause for the Irish border backstop, Dublin said it would not countenance the kind of concession that Britain seems likely to seek.

"The European Parliament will not ratify a withdrawal agreement that doesn't have a backstop in it," Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.

“It’s as simple as that. The backstop is already a compromise.

"It is a series of compromises. It was designed around British red lines," he told the BBC. 

EU spokesman Margaritis Schinas said: "We have a unanimous EU27 position on the withdrawal agreement which reflects the common EU position.

“This withdrawal agreement has been agreed with the UK government, it is endorsed by leaders and is not open for renegotiation.”

Leading UK retailers gave a warning that food prices would rise and supermarket shelves could be empty in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

During March, 90 per cent of lettuce, 80 per cent of tomatoes and 70 per cent of soft fruit in the UK is grown in the EU, according to a letter by the British Retail Consortium and co-signed by key food retailers. They said freight traffic from France's port of Calais would plunge by 87 per cent.

If the UK were to crash out of the EU without a deal, it would revert to World Trade Organisation rules.

But only 10 per cent of food imports are subject to these, leading to higher prices.


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"Even if the UK government does not undertake checks on products at the border, there will still be major disruption at Calais as the French government has said it will enforce sanitary and customs checks on exports from the EU, which will lead to long delays," the letter said.

“For consumers, this will reduce the availability and shelf life of many products in our stores.”

Mrs May has been forced to reach out to rival MPs in her search for a deal that could be voted through parliament after her original plan was this month humiliatingly defeated .