Brexit could lead to higher prices for shoppers, retailers warn

Prices of goods ranging from women’s clothing to Chilean wine could rise sharply if Britain fails to strike a good Brexit deal, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned today.

The trade body said that without a favourable agreement with the European Union by 2019, the UK could be forced to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules.

That would see new tariffs applied on imports from both inside and outside the EU. Levies on meat from abroad could leap by 27%, while charges on clothing and footwear could go from zero to between 11% and 16%. Chilean wine could be 14% dearer for importers.

Faced with the National Living Wage, bigger bills for business rates, the pound’s recent plunge and price deflation, retailers have limited ability to absorb higher costs, the BRC said.

Listen to the struggle of the pound since Brexit

Government should therefore “put consumers first in the forthcoming Brexit talks by ensuring their sights are firmly set on keeping shop prices low once the UK leaves the European Union”.

Chairman Richard Baker said the organisation would enter a “constructive dialogue” with government on Brexit.

The BRC also said it will campaign for “an early end to the uncertainty facing EU workers now residing in the UK and contributing to our economy”.

“The UK retail industry employs between 100,000 and 200,000 EU nationals, who make a huge contribution in every type of role from the boardroom to distribution centres and customer service. They deserve the reassurance that they will still be welcome here, whatever Brexit may bring.”

The call comes after Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s proposal to force companies to reveal the number of migrant workers they employ. The government has since u-turned on the plans, but business groups, including the British Chambers of Commerce, have warned the UK risks sending a message that it is “closed for business”. 

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