MPs have reached crunch point as they consider what our economic partnership, if any, with the EU will look like past the end of next week, writes David Lonsdale of the Scottish Retail Consortium.
The frustrating inability of parliamentarians to look past reckless politicking and agree a compromise is making a lasting tariff-free and frictionless trade relationship with the EU look more and more remote.
While eyes are transfixed on the unfolding political drama, the stark reality is firms are spending valuable money and effort on contingency planning for a disorderly Brexit.
A lasting trade deal would have genuine benefits for Scots. It would help retailers keep down prices and ensure shoppers continue to have the widest possible choice on shop shelves.
A ‘no deal’ Brexit by contrast would hit the poorest, who typically spend proportionally more of their family budget on groceries, clothing, and medicines.
This is because these items can attract import tariffs. Thin margins in retail mean extra costs are likely to be passed on to consumers.
Also, a significant portion of the food we buy comes from the EU, and needs transported quickly.
This requires customs controls after Brexit which ensure products can be imported with minimal delays and disruption which would otherwise affect choice and availability, increase waste and push up prices.
Our members will find it hard to maintain the quality, price, and durability of fresh food without an EU trading relationship.
MPs must now come together and agree a path forward with the EU, either by passing the Withdrawal Agreement or by developing a clear alternative plan to justify an application for a long extension, approval of which would require unanimity from the EU.
The clock is no longer counting down – we are well into injury time. To avoid ordinary shoppers being hit with unwanted new costs, MPs must deliver clarity now.
David Lonsdale is director of the Scottish Retail Consortium