Supply chains face ‘winter of chaos’ from no deal Brexit and second Covid-19 spike

By David Howorth, executive director at SCALA, provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector.

Warnings from government this week of queues of 7,000 trucks in Kent and 48-hour delays at Dover, have sent shivers down the spines of logistics and supply chain managers operating to ‘just in time’ principles.

Coupled with the disruption expected from a second spike in Covid-19 infections, it is feared supply chains could enter a deep freeze this winter just as consumer demand skyrockets for Christmas and Black Friday.

Retailers, suppliers and manufacturers have learned and adjusted from the experience of unprecedented demand at the outset of lockdown in March. There is confidence that the second spike and any forthcoming lockdown would be managed without the shortages experienced in the spring. But, the unknown quantity that is the Brexit negotiations is casting a long shadow over supply chain planning.

The government’s ‘reasonable worst-case scenario’ makes for sobering reading and we believe that should we crash out of the EU without a deal, it is not unreasonable to expect chaotic scenes as supply chains are stretched like never before.

We have been warning about this possibility for a long time and with each passing day, we take a step toward a potential winter of chaos. While it is pleasing that the government is acknowledging the scale of the possible disruption, we can only hope that these warnings are being heard across Whitehall, and industry and hauliers given greater clarity on what is required.

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