Breaking EU border blockade on Britain: food and drink chefs want to act
UK food and drink companies are today calling on ministers to engage in urgent talks with EU officials after an investigation by The Mail on Sunday found UK exports were routinely blocked due to an “avalanche of red tape”.
When Britain left the EU in January, delays were reported in getting perishable goods to mainland Europe.
But now the Department of Health can reveal that the EU’s border crisis is more serious – and costing the UK economy huge business losses.
Red tape: crisis at EU borders deeper and costing UK economy huge business losses
According to the Federation of Small Businesses, one in five small exporters have stopped selling in the EU due to the additional paperwork and costs involved. Another in five plans to end sales to the EU, the trade body said.
Writing in MoS today, Shevaun Haviland, Managing Director of UK Chambers of Commerce, warns of a “building storm in our export sector that threatens to derail the recovery and our long-term ambitions for a Truly Global Britain “.
She says exporters are “consumed in an avalanche of bureaucracy and stranded in disruption” and warns they face “problems they simply cannot solve.”
A record 28 percent of UK exporters reported a drop in sales between April and June in the most recent UK Chambers of Commerce survey.
Our investigation into the food and drink export crisis also revealed:
- The cost of shipping a pallet of cheese to the EU has more than tripled from Â£ 75 to Â£ 240 due to additional paperwork for exporters and price hikes for couriers;
- Samples of âtastingâ alcohol cans for potential European customers returned by couriers without explanation;
- Entire pallets of perishable foodstuffs leave on trucks driven back at the French border;
- Chocolate containing small amounts of whiskey is rejected by EU border staff, who classify it as âalcoholâ and ask for different documents;
- European buyers are turning to French whiskey suppliers due to additional costs and delays in receiving goods from the UK;
- EU border forces reject pallets if a single digit is wrong on the packaging code.
The warnings come after the Department of Health revealed last month that draconian border controls made it “nearly impossible” for Marks & Spencer to get sandwiches to its stores in Paris. Before Brexit, companies could freely export goods within the bloc. But they now face a series of new hurdles, including additional customs formalities and VAT charges.
Mike Cherry, President of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We urgently need to see policymakers on both sides of the Channel assess ways to alleviate the administrative burden for small exporters, who are often among our most innovative and profitable companies. ”
Haviland added: “We call on senior ministers as well as EU officials to step in and urgently address the issues plaguing small and medium-sized exporters.”
The managing director of Welsh whiskey exporter Penderyn Distillery, Stephen Davies, said he had lost “tens of thousands of pounds” of potential business as sample boxes of his drinks were returned to several taken over from Spain, Germany and Ireland.
He added: “The packages come straight back and the courier shrugs, or the customer has to fill out a huge amount of paperwork to receive very small amounts of alcohol with no commercial value. It’s embarrassing, it gives us the impression. that we are very inefficient.
He said shipping costs to Europe had dropped from Â£ 500 to Â£ 1,500 for each delivery.
Claire Ashbridge-Thomlinson, director of the East London Brewing Company, said her company was also unable to win new contracts after a series of delivery failures. Repeated attempts to ship beer to Spain, Italy and Sweden resulted in packages being returned, meaning wholesale buyers were unable to try the drinks before deciding whether to import in bulk or not. .
Bad smell: Jason Hinds, sales manager of Neal’s Yard Dairy, said pallets of his artisanal cheeses went extinct after trucks were dumped at the French border and sent back to Britain
“A box has been returned four times without an explanation,” she said. âWe are talking about a Â£ 12 box of beer that I spent Â£ 1,000 on trying to send without success.
“Other than my crotch measurements, I couldn’t have given them more details the last time we sent a delivery to Spain – and it always came back.”
Jason Hinds, sales manager for Neal’s Yard Dairy, said pallets of its artisanal cheeses disappeared after trucks were rejected at the French border and returned to Britain over administrative issues with other exports being transported on the same truck.
He said: âThese are products with a shelf life. It used to take about a week to get cheese from order to arrival, now the paperwork leads to delays and, in the worst case, whole trucks to turn back. It is very frustrating. The company is considering renting its own vehicle to transport goods to France in order to counter the problem.
Hinds said the average cost of shipping a pallet before Brexit was Â£ 75 and has now risen to Â£ 240.
Scottish luxury chocolatier Chocolate Tree – which exports to Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium – said a shipment was rejected because the code number was missing two zeros at the end.
A delivery of whiskey chocolate was delayed because it was treated as an alcoholic product when it contained less than 1% whiskey.
Founder Alastair Gower said: âThe French are very proud of their food heritage and we had to work very hard to find a distributor. We did it and it was successful and we grew our business there, but now it feels like the rug is pulled under us.
Antony McCallum’s Scottish whiskey brand, House of McCallum, exports throughout Europe. He said the export system is now very slow and warehouse providers in the Netherlands are “taking advantage” of UK companies taking up warehouse space to counter the effects of border issues. He said the additional costs for his customers to import his alcohol put his long-term prospects at risk. âThe price differentiator is now so important that my customers say they are buying more French whiskey. It won’t hit big guys like Johnnie Walker and Diageo, but small producers like mine are hurting, âsaid McCallum of Paris, where he created a new business entity.
Spirits: Antony McCallum says increased red tape hits his whiskey business
He is also looking for a warehouse in France to facilitate deliveries in Europe.
Paul Rostand, of the Great British Biscotti Company, based in Dorset, said: âFrench and German politicians were so vindictive it had a huge impact on business. Our orders there have just dried up. I’m going to leave it six months before I try to export there again – to give the politicians time to wake up and act practically, like adults. Having said that, the Department of International Trade has been phenomenal in bringing us new business in the Middle East and the Far East. ‘
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss last week appointed 54 Export Champions to help UK businesses expand trade around the world.
However, Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association said: âIt is good to have the ambition to trade worldwide with non-EU countries. But we have to accept our geography and that for some businesses – especially perishable goods – it is impractical to focus on markets halfway around the world rather than in Europe. We can’t just ignore our biggest market.
The companies have warned that the problems could worsen when reciprocal measures to add additional controls on European imports to the UK are introduced in October. A shortage of truck drivers to transport goods is causing supply problems in the UK and Europe.
The problems are unlikely to have hit large exporters who had significant European operations and resources to plan Brexit in depth.
Brewer Ashbridge-Thomlinson said: “Ministers have to step in. The government is having a lot of seminars to try to help people export to Europe after Brexit, but they have to send people from their embassies to Europe and find out what the real problem is, right now it’s just Kafkaesque.
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