Major retailers and foodservice operators have warned that their shelves will be empty in the short term as a result of a no-deal Brexit.

Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Co-op, Lidl, KFC and McDonald’s are among the signatories of a letter to MPs stating that stockpiling fresh food is impossible and that the EU is a key source of produce for the UK.

The letter from the British Retail Consortium has been signed by several food retailers and has been seen by the BBC.

The letter reads: “We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no deal Brexit.”

The letter also urges MPs to work together “urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no-deal Brexit”.

It references the government’s estimate that freight through Calais could fall 87% from current levels, and raises concern over tariffs, with only 10% of the UK’s food imports currently subject to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The letter also serves as a reminder that one third of the food in the UK comes in from the EU.

“In March, the situation becomes more acute as UK produce is out of season,” the retailers write.

Referring to the concept of stockpiling, the letter explains that it is difficult to stockpile any more produce as “all frozen and chilled storage is already being used”.

It continues: “While we have been working closely with our suppliers on contingency plans, it is not possible to mitigate all the risks to our supply chains and we fear significant disruption as a result if there is no Brexit deal.”