Nigel Jenney slams government ‘incompetence’ in outspoken tirade

FPC CEO Nigel Jenney hasn't pulled his punches

FPC CEO Nigel Jenney hasn’t pulled his punches

The UK has become the “laughing stock of Europe” thanks to the government’s handling of the post-Brexit border situation, Fresh Produce Consortium chief executive Nigel Jenney has claimed.

In an extraordinary tirade against the government’s handling of the new border arrangements, Jenney lambasted the government for both “single-handedly creating the world’s most inefficient and expensive border”, and “squandering” a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” that will have consequences for both businesses and consumers. 

“The UK government has ignored our extensive advice on how to streamline border processes,” Jenney insisted. “Instead, they’ve created a strategy that is both incompetent and hugely expensive. This will drive up costs for our sector, which will ultimately be passed on to consumers already struggling with the rising cost of living.”

‘Total incompetence’

Jenney said the government has “procrastinated and shown total incompetence” despite being offered workable solutions, and urged the government to make official inspections available at appropriate hours and ensure a border strategy that guarantees food security at a reasonable cost for both industry and consumers.

“To avoid this self-made crisis, we recently proposed a handful of inspectors at key points to support the EU trade; a solution perfectly suited to our just-in-time, perishable goods industry,” he said. “Yet, this was rejected outright. We have become the laughing stock of Europe.”

In a wide-ranging statement, Jenney slammed ‘exorbitant’ government costs including common user charges of up to £14,500 per 100 consignmnents, confusion around official inspection staff, lack of clarity and constant changes undermining industry confidence, and a lack of consultation with industry.

He added that the government’s solutions would add £200m of avoidable costs to the sector, showed a lack of understanding or interest in the UK horticulture industry or its international partners, and did not incentivise the sector to export.