Since the referendum in 2016, Brexit has been a frequent concern for manufacturers in Britain — with no real sense of direction from the government. Although Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced the government’s Chequers deal last month, plans are being drawn up for a ‘no deal’ scenario which is seemingly becoming a more realistic route for the country.
In light of this, Theresa May will publish scores of documents to prepare both businesses and the public for a potential no-deal Brexit in August and September this year. However, 10 Downing Street has denied the reports of the British Army being on stand-by to deliver food, medicines and fuel in the event of a shortage.
Undoubtedly, the food and drinks sector will be impacted by the outcome of Brexit — from the importation of produce to the recommended standards of quality control. However, many suppliers have been left wondering whether they’d be able to cope with a crash exit.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman commented: “It’s about good planning and taking sensible precautions.”
The government has held discussions with every sector since the negotiations began; but many areas surrounding the new Chequers deal and chance of a ‘no-deal’ have not been addressed. The Food and Drink Federation has stated that it would welcome a conversation with the government to discuss the new direction.
Newly appointed Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, said that it would be the industry’s responsibility to ensure “adequate food supplies”. This is a problem for grocers, as the comment shows that the government has no clear understanding of how the sector operates. On top of this, the government has had no contact with grocers around stockpiling food.
The relationship that the UK has with other countries is critical to the sector, too. Only 49% of the food that we consume is produced in the UK. Because of this, there isn’t a lot of warehouse space, as companies do not hold big inventories. The majority of food that has been imported arrives just in time to be used — meaning that all items are immediately dispatched and there’s close to no holding times.
Many professionals within the sector believe that Raab’s solution is to arrange imports from a single continent — which could be extremely problematic. Many believe that this would be North America and more specifically, the United States, however, one study found that the USA is only the tenth-largest exporter of food to the UK. This could be damaging to both businesses and the public, as it’s highly unlikely that the US could replace the other nine exporting nations.
Also, many MPs and senior ministers are aiming to give the final decision back to the public with only three main routes of action: Theresa May’s deal, no deal, or remaining part of the European Union.
Importation & The Food Standards Agency
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the main way food is regulated in the UK — regardless of whether it was made on home soil or exported from another country. However, the FSA is set to change its methods, which couldn’t have come at a worse time with Brexit on the horizon.
Brexit means that the UK needs a stronger FSA — which could be problematic if these changes aren’t implemented in the smoothest way possible. Consumer trust in food standards and safety is already at a low; and rightly so with confirmed cases of Campylobacter bacteria increasing by 46% from 2008 to 2012.
With the uncertainty of Brexit, this could be worsened. But faith can be restored for consumers if manufactures and food production companies take the appropriate actions to streamline processes and ensure that food on the line in the UK is being thoroughly checked.
Although this can take many hours of physical work, it can be made easier through the introduction of IP CCTV Camera Systems and video analytics. Although video analytics can help with facial recognition purposes, it can also analyse and track objects effectively — removing the fear of human error when monitoring what comes in and what goes out of a factory.
Video analytics can be conducted in real time, which allows businesses to monitor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — without any distractions. It’s been shown that by introducing video analytics to a business, you can see an improved performance; with an increase in monitoring without having to increase your workforce.
As well as this, using motion detection can highlight any issues that may be occurring in the factory. If a production line has stopped, this can be detected instantly, which can improve efficiency across the company.