Consumers face a surge in prices following Brexit unless the Government can replicate trade deals with dozens of non-EU nations, the British Retail Consortium has cautioned.
The BRC issued the fresh warning over potential price hikes after compiling import data from UK retailers.
It said the cost of everyday products including food and clothing would go up if the UK lost the preferential arrangements it enjoys as a member of the EU.
According to BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson, the UK currently benefits from zero or low tariffs on various imports, thanks to trade deals struck by the EU with 73 third-party countries.
As it stands, those arrangements will come to an end when the UK leaves the EU on March 30, 2019.
The BRC’s import data revealed that Turkey, as one of the major suppliers to the UK, could have the most significant impact on prices should no trade agreement be done.
With no deal, the tariff on clothing imported from Turkey could rocket from zero to 12%.
The tariff on fish imported from Iceland would also surge from 3.4% to 11%, the BRC warned.
Call for reassurance
Andrew Opie, the BRC’s director of food and sustainability, urged the Government to provide “reassurance” that trade deals would be transferred in time “to ensure that UK consumers don’t lose out”.
Opie added: “New or higher tariffs inevitably mean consumers would face higher prices in their everyday shop, as staple products such as fruit, vegetables, fish and clothing would be hardest hit.
“Price increases of any scale would add to the burden of hard-pressed consumers whose finances are already being squeezed by inflationary pressures.
“Now that an agreement has been reached to move the negotiations on to trade, the focus must be on securing the continuity of free trade with Europe, alongside replicating these existing agreements with countries outside of the EU.
“These are the crucial next steps that Government needs to take to avoid a cliff-edge situation on Brexit day and to deliver a fair Brexit for consumers.”