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Catering giant warns no-deal Brexit could force schools to change menus as it stockpiles food

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
School dinners. Photo: PA/Getty

Schools could be forced to change lunch menus if a no-deal Brexit disrupts food supply chains, a leading catering firm has warned.

The chief executive of Compass, which provides catering for one in 10 schools, colleges and universities in the UK, said Brexit now posed a “serious” threat to its business model.

Dominic Blakemore said the company may have to be “flexible” over menus if the UK crashed out without a deal, with EU ingredients potentially substituted for British or other produce.

He said the company had already drawn up contingency plans to “gradually” start stockpiling ingredients as Britain’s departure nears. It buys around £140m of food from other EU countries each year, and employs 60,000 people across the UK.

Parts of the firm’s UK division, which makes up only 10% of Compass’ global trade, are extending their inventory levels from two or three weeks to up to five weeks.

Blakemore told the Press Association: “We are looking to increase some inventories where appropriate, but also be flexible around the menus.”

The chief executive also joined Airbus, BMW and other business in backing prime minister Theresa May’s deal with the EU.

“We would welcome clarity and certainty. A deal is better than no deal,” he added.

His comments come after Compass, which does the majority of its business in the US, reported a 2.6% fall in pre-tax profits for the year to 30 September.

The chances of Britain crashing out of the EU without an agreement appear to be receding however, after the new home secretary Amber Rudd said today that parliament would not allow it to happen.

At prime minister’s questions, May then raised the spectre of Brexit not happening at all if MPs voted down her agreement with Brussels, rather than a no-deal Brexit.

“If you look at the alternative to having that deal with the European Union it will either be more uncertainty, more division or it could risk no Brexit at all,” she told MPs.

A Downing Street spokesperson later said no deal was still a possible outcome.