The chairman of Marks & Spencer has called plans to ease post-Brexit trade “baffling” and “overbearing”, as he became the latest business leader to attack the government over its economic policy.
In a broadside on proposals for solving the Northern Irish Protocol stand-off, Archie Norman said the approach could force prices higher and give EU companies an advantage over British competitors.
The comments from Mr Norman, a former Tory MP, come after fellow industry leaders have also raised the alarm about the direction of the Government.
Dyson founder Sir James Dyson last week accused the Government of a “stupid” economic approach, while the director-general of Confederation of British Industry (CBI) questioned the lack of a “strategy”.
Mr Norman’s criticisms come in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, excerpts of which have been seen by The Daily Telegraph, which single out proposals for packaging changes.
Forcing companies to put “Northern Ireland only” or “UK wide” labelling on packages to avoid burdensome customs checks would drive up costs for supermarkets and producers, he argues.
Mr Norman said: “The overbearing costs of a labelling regime would raise prices and reduce choice for consumers, further disadvantage UK farmers and suppliers and impact UK retailers competitiveness in other international markets.
“The simple fact is retailers already operate in real time digital information – day or night, at the click of a button, we can locate our products be that in a depot, in transit or in a store.
“In a digital era – when one tap of a mobile can check-in a customer at store and locate their order in under 60 seconds, it’s baffling that the Government and EU have rewound four decades to discuss an expensive ‘solution’ involving stickers & labelling.”
On Thursday, Rishi Sunak will attempt to rally ministerial support behind his five newly announced promises, including halving inflation by the end of the year, in a rare “away day” with his Cabinet.
On Friday, Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, will double down on that inflation target, using a speech to push back on Tory MPs demanding tax cuts by insisting getting prices down is the key to growth.