The UK finally left the EU on 31st January 2020. Currently, there is a withdrawal agreement in place which means Britain is still following all the EU’s rules and regulations. This is only valid until 31st December 2020. There are still a number of negotiations to be discussed during this time – and if there is no agreement by the deadline, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will happen.

This would undoubtedly have a knock-on effect on the food and drink manufacturing industry – increasing the chances of empty shop shelves.

Here, we explore the issue at hand…

Exports and imports

In the situation of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, there would be significant tariffs for UK food and drink exports to the EU. Plus, Britain would have no choice but to agree to zero tariffs on imports. This doesn’t just take into account England, Wales and Scotland – but exports to the Republic of Ireland and imports into Northern Ireland too.

A considerable amount of goods from Northern Ireland would need to be pushed through the UK. In turn, this would paint a new picture of the market altogether, generating huge trade surpluses.

Storage space

Due to the surpluses, there will need to be adequate space to accommodate the extra produce. But where they would be located is something no one knows the answer to.

The end of the UK’s transition period is in the run up to Christmas – a time when 60% of products are imported. Unfortunately, warehouses will more than likely already be booked up. Therefore, stockpiling is not an option.

Shop shelves

On top of this, there could be delays to imports into the UK, due to new tariff and custom checks. For those items that are dependent on imports, it may be that they become unavailable. Milk powder and wheat are amongst these foods.

Those with a specific shelf life, such as bread, would be thrown into disarray as delays could mean that products will no longer be suitable for eating. And, this won’t just be for a few weeks but potentially months

Map of Europe


There are alternative routes being sought to avoid the chances of empty shop shelves. For example, sourcing substitute distributors. This will come at a cost, however. And, this isn’t even taking into account the potential risk of being unable to recruit the necessary talent.

With the sector employing a total of over 450,000 people in the UK, and 30% being EU nationals across all skill levels, it may be that you can’t find the right people. As skills shortages in specific areas such as quality assurance are already an issue in the industry, it will prove a massive cost in terms of both money and time.

However, there will be the right talent out there – it’s just a matter of knowing how to find it. A specialist recruiter, like Silven, has the expertise.


Years of experience, plus modern techniques and an incredibly extensive network, means that we can ensure that the correct calibre is matched up with your company. And quickly – we take a speedy approach, without compromising on quality.

We can even recruit in those candidate short markets. So, don’t leave your talent sourcing too late – put your trust in us. From permanent to interim staff, we can help. Contact the team at Silven by getting in touch today.