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Supermarkets warn no-deal Brexit will cause soaring prices

Leading retailers have warned a no-deal Brexit will cause ‘significant disruption’ to food supplies across Britain.

A letter to MPs, signed by bosses from Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Lidl, McDonald’s and KFC, warned about empty shelves and soaring prices if the UK crashes out of the EU.

They warned that Britain relies on Europe for almost one-third of its food.

The firms – used by millions of customers every day – said the timing of Brexit at the end of March made the situation even worse because of when UK crops are harvested.

The supermarket and restaurant chain bosses said: ‘In March, the situation is more acute as UK produce is out of season: 90% of our lettuces, 80% of our tomatoes and 70% of our soft fruit is sourced from the EU at that time of year.

‘We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no-deal Brexit.

‘We anticipate significant risks to maintaining the choice, quality and durability of food that our customers have come to expect in our stores, and there will be inevitable pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs.

‘We are therefore asking you to work with your colleagues in Parliament urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March and removes these risks for consumers.’

However pro-Brexit MP Andrea Jenkyns said the warnings from supermarket bosses were ‘thinly veiled attempts of bullying the British public into supporting Brexit in name only’.

She told LBC Radio: ‘We expect businesses to come out with more fear-mongering as we get to March 29.’

It came as a new study warned that a no-deal Brexit would lead to thousands of deaths from heart attacks and strokes by driving up the price of fruit and vegetables.

Researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Liverpool claimed that no-deal would lead to an estimated 12,000 extra deaths between 2021 and 2030.

Paraskevi Seferidi, a PhD researcher at Imperial and author of the study, said: ‘The UK is highly dependent on imports, especially for fresh fruits and vegetables. These have a strong protective effect on health.

‘Our paper illustrates, for the first time, the potential negative impacts of Brexit on fruit and veg prices, intake, heart disease and stroke.’

Critics described the study as ‘Project Fear at its very worst’.