Shoppers walk along Oxford Street in central London on January 20, 2013. Four big British high-street retailers had to call in administrators this winter as cash-strapped, web-literate consumers proved unforgiving of stores failing to adapt to fast-evolving markets. AFP PHOTO/ANDREW COWIE (Photo credit should read ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Getty Images)

British Retail Consortium chief executive, Helen Dickinson, yesterday took a shot at the UK Government over its drawn out and ongoing Brexit negotiations.

The lack of clarity over what international trade will look like from 1 January is leaving businesses in limbo, she argued.

She said: “The 11th hour has passed and every passing moment of uncertainty makes it harder for businesses to prepare effectively for the 1 January.

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“Without a deal, the British public will face over £3bn in food tariffs and retailers would have no choice but to pass on some of these additional costs to their customers who would see higher prices filter though during 2021.”

On top of this, “new checks and red tape” from 1 January will prove an additional burden for retailers and customers, she argued.

Dickinson continued: “Retailers are doing everything they can to prepare for all eventualities on 1 January – increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer life products so there will be sufficient supply of essential products.

“They have also been building new customs and VAT processes, working with suppliers to ease logistics, and more.

“While no amount of preparation by retailers can entirely prevent disruption, there is no need for the public to buy more food than usual as the main impact will be on imported fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.

“Both sides must double down and do what is necessary to agree a zero-tariff agreement, or else it will be the public that pay the price of this failure.”

The chief executive continued: “With many people’s finances already strained by the economic impact of coronavirus, households can ill-afford a significant rise in food prices. For the sake of customers and businesses around the UK, we need a deal in the next three weeks.”