Business

NIRC calls for fair deal for shoppers as new data shows potential Brexit costs

NIRC director Aodhán Connolly launches the 'Fair Deal for Consumers' campaign
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE Northern Ireland Retail Consortium (NIRC) has launched a campaign to ensure local consumers are front and centre in the current Brexit negotiations amid fears prices will spiral.

“A Fair Deal for Consumers” aims to show the impact on average households that tariffs could have if a satisfactory deal is not achieved.

And as part of the launch the NIRC unveiled a pricing tool based on parliamentary constituencies that shows the possible rises in cost of several staple foods/

Aodhán Connolly, director of the NIRC, said “The progress made so far in the Brexit negotiations by the UK and the EU is encouraging, but there is still work to do to achieve a fair final agreement.

"If the UK leaves the EU with no trade agreement, EU imports into the UK will be subject to World Trade Organisation Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs.

“We have crunched the numbers for what an MFN tariff arrangement could mean for the price of a handful of staple foods for shoppers across Northern Ireland and Great Britain. There are a number of factors which influence price so our figures represent an estimate of the potential price increases we may see.”

The pricing tool estimates that weekly expenditure by shoppers nationally on specific staple food items could increase by as much as up to 37 per cent on beef, 43 per cent on cheese, 8 per cent on tomatoes and up 13 per cent on broccoli and cabbages. This represents an increase of three per cent on the weekly food shop for the average household.

Mr Connolly continued; “The average Northern Ireland household already has less than half of the weekly discretionary spending power of GB households. Any rises in costs such as new tariffs simply can't be absorbed entirely by retailers.

"This is not an ideological stance as we are Brexit agnostic. The figures simply highlight a risk of potential increases that we may see if a satisfactory agreement on tariffs is not reached. We are simply concerned with the facts and the need to protect the already hard pressed Northern Ireland consumer.”

He insisted the NIRC's campaign is not simply focussing on tariffs.

“Our politicians and the EU need to look at all areas that will affect our shoppers. In addition to tariffs we have the border and we want to see any new frictions and costs avoided as much as possible.

“The December agreement reached between the UK and EU makes it clear that there will be no barriers for goods leaving Northern Ireland but it does not give the same assurances to goods coming in.

"Our members and their supply chain bring hundreds of lorries into Northern Ireland every day and any delays and administrative burdens could affect the cost of everyday products to our consumers, from groceries to clothes and everything in between.

“Over the coming weeks and months the NIRC will be seeking meetings with MPs, MLAs, MEPs, the EU and other stakeholders to make sure that they understand the need for a fair deal for our Northern Ireland consumers.

"Political certainty on the final deal between the UK and EU is needed as soon as possible for businesses and consumers. Tariff-free trade must remain a priority for both sides in the negotiations.”

:: You can access the data for each parliamentary constituency at www.brc.org.uk, including a map with constituency breakdown and full data sheet. You can follow the campaign on twitter at #Fairdeal

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