Marks & Spencer has several dozen Food Hall stores in Paris and its suburbs, much beloved of British residents of the city for supplying homely delicacies like Breakfast tea, crumpets, sandwiches and ready meals.
But post-Brexit supply problems are taking their toll, and since the beginning of January shoppers have reported virtually empty shelves, with some stores closing their door altogether.
The store at Porte Maillot in the 17th arrondissement was on Monday displaying a sign saying it had received no shipments from the UK due to new government directives on trade between France and the UK.
The great M and S Post-Brexit sandwich famine of 2021. Sign in the Marks and Spencer at Porte Maillot in Paris today. “Because of new govt regulations on trade between the UK and France , we received no shipments from the UK today.” pic.twitter.com/3ngJpR7O50
— John Lichfield (@john_lichfield) January 4, 2021
Since the Brexit transition period ended on January 1st businesses transporting goods into EU countries such as France face a raft of new regulations, especially around animal products.
Any product such as meat, dairy or eggs that derives from animals needs a veterinary certificate stating that it conforms to EU regulations, in addition to the extra customs documentation that all imports into the EU now require.
The strict food regulations apply to both businesses and individuals, so people travelling from the UK to France can no longer bring along a ham sandwich for the journey.
News of the shortages was met with dismay by M&S's loyal customers in Paris.
Just been to M&S in gare de l est….”Closed until further notice”… no curry for me tonight… or indeed on Tuesdays Weds,Thurs and fridays…
— Ben McPartland (@McPBen) January 4, 2021
Is it just sandwiches? I rely on M&S for the curry boxes. Please tell me they still stock the curry boxes and the salt and vinegar crisps…
— Kim Willsher (@kimwillsher1) January 4, 2021
Marks & Spencer said it was working to solve the problem and hope to have all their lines back on the shelves shortly.
But by Friday there was still no sign of the shortages ending.
— Marc Epstein (@MarcEpstein_) January 8, 2021
— Nadya Ivanova (@nadyaivanova) January 7, 2021
M&S stores in Ireland were also reporting similar shortages.
Soviet shortages in my local @marksandspencer in Dublin with little fresh veg or fish to be had. My mole says it's all Brexit-related with trucks delayed since Friday by additonal paperwork. That food will be spoiled soon. pic.twitter.com/llsClbPmRu
— Jason Corcoran (@jason_corcoran) January 6, 2021
An M&S spokesman said in a statement: “As we are transitioning to the new processes, it is taking a little longer for some of our products to reach stores.
“But we are working with our partners, suppliers and relevant government agencies and local authorities to quickly improve this.”
M&S chairman Archie Norman had warned as far back as August 2018 of this particular Brexit risk.
“If our lorries are sitting in a lorry park near Dover for half a day, that would be the demise of the great M&S sandwich in Paris,” he told The Financial Times.
The sandwiches and other meals for the retailer's 21 food stores in the country – all but one in Paris and one in the northern city of Lille – are made in a factory in central England.
Norman suggested that setting up production in France was not a viable proposition.