Panic-buying in UK will return ahead of Brexit transition end, experts say

LONDON — Britons got a taste of what a food shortage might look like during the coronavirus pandemic, and it does not bode well for Brexit.

The coronavirus crisis has seen worried Brits panic buy toilet paper and food as the virus sweeps across the globe. For most, it is the first time in living memory that food availability has been reduced, caused by the just-in-time supply chains being unable to cope with the sudden increase in demand, despite no shortage of supply.

Research from consumer analysis firm Kantar found supermarket sales for March topped those usually seen during Christmas, with an average household buying five days’ worth of extra groceries. Social media was awash with images of bare shelves.

Experts have warned that the U.K. public, drawing on such coronavirus experiences, could eschew their previous complacency around Brexit and rush to the shops to stockpile again as the transition period draws to a close.

When a no-deal Brexit loomed last year, with warnings that disruption at the U.K. border with the EU could lead to food shortages, only a small number of people listened. Twice, Britain came within days of a no-deal departure, but an army of shoppers did not descend on stores.

“In a no-deal Brexit situation, with tariffs and regulatory checks, some supplies could stop overnight” — Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the Food and Drink Federation

Things will be different this time, experts say, and not just because there will be guaranteed disruptions at the EU-U.K. border, deal or no deal. Consumer psychologist Dr. Cathrine Jansson-Boyd said Brits will “definitely” begin panic-buying again,

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