Whether you’re a Leaver or a Remainer, I think there’s one thing we can all agree on: Brexit is not going as planned or promised. No matter what side you are on when it comes to this awkward, “let’s-stay-friends-maybe-even-with-benefits” break up with the European Union, it would be very short-sighted indeed to not think about the potential for disruption.
Supply chain resilience is all about maintaining a smooth conveyor belt and stashing away a sensible stockpile of goods – but which goods are most at risk? There are a lot of very different views on this, from the optimistic to the apocalyptic. However, since no one seems to have a clear idea of what Brexit will look like, when (possibly even if) it will happen and when we’ll be getting those famous blue passports, let’s look at some of the most unexpected supply chain shortages that the media has served up for us in the run up to Brexit.
A surprisingly British potential victim of Brexit, our supply of gin may well be put under strain. Much to the horror of trendy London cocktail bars, juniper berries imported from the Mediterranean might be in short supply if there is a no-deal Brexit according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. Although we do produce juniper here in our own green and pleasant land, we simply don’t have enough of it to meet the demands of a booming UK gin market.
Similarly, the wine industry could also see some serious impacts. 99% of our wine is imported, meaning that prices could shoot up and supplies could run low if the government can’t find a way to keep logistics across the border running smoothly, causing headaches for retailers and perhaps fewer headaches for us.
6. Mars Bars
Experts in the food industry have warned that confectionary could get more expensive in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Even worse, they claim that the UK could run out of Mars bars in a matter of weeks. Although supermarkets are stockpiling food, or at least preparing to, two of the ingredients in Mars bars are fresh and only take a few days to go off. The potential for delays at Dover is posing a serious threat to the fresh food industry, and to those who do not want to live in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, Mars bar-less wasteland.
Bad news for those who work in gyms or have their personal space violated daily on the London underground: deodorant could become a scarcity. Unilever have reportedly started stockpiling both deodorant and its raw materials in case of a no-deal Brexit.
However if a nationwide Lynx shortage were to hit, the real question is: what inexpensive stocking fillers do we give teenage boys now? Certainly not Mars bars.
4. Hotel Staff
Perhaps including human beings in a list of commodities is in poor taste, but it’s a business continuity issue that the hospitality industry needs to be ready for.
While there has been an increase in UK applicants for hospitality jobs helping to plug the gap, there will certainly be a knock on effect as the 12 – 23% of the UK hospitality sector workforce is currently made up of EU nationals according to a KMPG study (with that number much higher in London). Net migration of EU citizens to the UK is still positive, although slowing, but needing to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme through the government website may well see this fall, especially if it’s anything like other government online portals. I would certainly rather start a new life in a different country than use the DVLA website ever again.
3. Toilet Paper
We are Europe’s biggest importer of toilet paper and each use an average of 110 rolls a year. If a no-deal Brexit leaves us with our border passages backed up, blockages at port exits and permit systems straining to get everything through, we could find ourselves up an unpleasant creek without a paddle.
This one certainly caught our office by surprise. The UK imports a lot of its donor sperm from the US, the EU and EEU (3,000 samples a year from Denmark alone). UK law gives children the right to identify their genetic father, whereas this is not the case in Denmark, making it appealing to families who don’t like the idea of the donor interfering with the family dynamic later down the line. And unfortunately, British donors are harder to come by: a sperm bank in Birmingham had to close after only being able to recruit nine donors. The same red tape that could impact the fresh food industry could also make the transport of biological samples trickier.
In an interview with The Guardian, one of Denmark’s most prolific donors said ““Listen, I have spent my life lying on my back like a lazy hog. Brexit will force me to make something of myself. Same as maybe it will for Britain. The kitten is out of its sack, man. You make nothing and you can’t feed yourselves and all your fruit is picked by Latvians. Sure, in the short term, we are both taking a heavy cash hit, but maybe Brexit will make us get our sh*t together.”
1. Irish Passport Application Forms
Just like on St. Patrick’s Day, suddenly everyone seems to have an Irish second-cousin-in-law-twice-removed-whose-grandad-once-visited-Galway. Remainers who want to cling to their EU identity and those who have a dual citizenship Brexit trump card have left some post offices completely without application forms. 1 in 5 applications were from UK residents last year – an unprecedented rise.
Ireland lets you have an Irish (and therefore EU) passport if:
- You are born to an Irish citizen
- Your grandparents are Irish
- You live in Ireland and meet certain residency criteria.
Although less of a supply chain issue (surely the Post Office have printers?), the shortage of Irish passport application forms suggests other business continuity issues. No, not a sudden spike in demand for Guinness – tech companies are choosing Dublin as their less-risky HQ, and there is a rising number of skilled British workers following them.
London certainly isn’t going to fall apart after Brexit. Nor is the country going to turn into a Mad Max hellscape where we form tribes of roving scavengers, searching the scorched ruins of the UK for vital supplies like Mars bars and toilet paper. But disruption is inevitable and businesses need to be ready to withstand some chaos with a characteristically British stiff upper lip.
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