Brexit: Major food retailer questions if Island is ready
A MAJOR food retailer has questioned the Island’s preparedness for a no-deal Brexit, claiming he has had virtually no communication or reassurance from the government about preventing possible food shortages.
Tony O’Neill, the chief executive of SandpiperCI, also said that a recent government announcement that the Co-op would be re-opening a warehouse to stockpile goods was a ‘PR exercise’, and the real issue is whether UK ports will continue being able to deliver food to the Island post-Brexit.
There have been long-standing concerns that supplies to Jersey could be disrupted if there is a no-deal Brexit and Dover becomes over-burdened due to tighter border checks.
Such a scenario could cause delays elsewhere as carriers are forced to deliver to other ports such as Portsmouth, from which Jersey receives most of its supplies.
Mr O’Neill, whose firm runs the Morrisons Daily and Marks and Spencer brands in Jersey, said that he was concerned about the lack of communication he had had from the government.
‘It is really challenging to say that we are insulated against these issues because no one knows exactly what’s going to happen,’ he said
‘I have had very little conversation with Jersey’s government about Brexit. I met with a UK consultant about a month ago – he came to my office for about an hour and we had a conversation about supplies.
‘My concerns are more about the ports of embarkation rather than our suppliers. I understand that food is being given some priority through Portsmouth but it could face a traffic increase of up to 40%, if carriers from Calais switch there.
‘One of the questions I asked was whether we might need another boat. But I never got a response to my questions.’
He added that he would like to know whether ports such as Weymouth and Poole were being considered to bring supplies to the Island through alternative routes.
Mr O’Neill said that he also felt the government had ignored questions he asked about the issue of SandpiperCI stockpiling goods in the Island.
‘I had an email about a month ago asking whether we needed more warehousing. I sent some questions back and I never got a response,’ he said.
‘If I’m brutally frank [the re-opening of the Co-op’s warehouse] was just gesture politics and a PR exercise. It’s on a very limited number of products.
‘It is only £14,000 of goods and on average £5 to £6 million is spent in the Island on food every week.’
He also said that it would also be ‘unrealistic’ to bring goods over from France, as recently suggested by the Economic Development Department, because UK retailers operate in the Island and supplies would need to be quality approved by them before being sold.