Brexit: Restaurant owner says her costs are now 20% higher
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Brexit red tape is preventing charities and members of the public from bringing supplies to the Ukrainian border to help ease the deepening humanitarian crisis, it has been claimed. A Polish charity in Lewisham, South London, told reporters that three of its vans were blocked from getting on a ferry because they did not have the necessary paperwork needed for their cargo. Since the UK officially left the EU after the transition period ended in January of last year, anyone taking commercial quantities of goods to the EU must document all items on their trucks along with other export certification.
The process is complicated and extensive: exporters must know the individual commodity code for each of their products, as well as the origin and destination of their goods.
It is something that has hindered small businesses operating in the UK who export their goods to customers on the continent.
Last year, Dispatches carried out an investigation asking whether Brexit had worked for businesses.
While it was difficult to find the true extent to which Brexit had shaped business — data were warped due to the coronavirus pandemic — for the most part, many businesses in the UK had been negatively affected.
Lobster Pot was one business that Dispatches delved into, speaking to its Projects Manager, Julie Hill.
The shellfish exporter located in Anglesey, North Wales, has been faced with mass returns of its product due to tiny administrative errors, as well as doubling in its costs due to new Brexit-related regulations.
Prior to the Brexit deal, Lobster Pot ran a “frictionless” operation in its exports, sending 80 percent of their fresh live lobster to one of Europe’s biggest seafood markets in France, five days a week.
But now, Lobster Pot’s export operation has been “thrown into chaos”.
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Ms Hill explained that she now has to send her fresh lobster to Scotland or the north of England before it can be sent to France, where her customer is located.
Because the company sells a premium product, it previously did not fill its own lorry, and so instead shared transport costs with other exporters.
They would meet with other hauliers on the motorway and put their loads onto other food exporter loads and share the cost.
Now, because the produce has to be checked at source and the truck sealed, they have to send the produce to the closest seafood exporter, which is either in Grimsby or Glasgow, and start the journey to France from there.
She said: “We’re here in Anglesey, we now have to go from here up to either Glasgow or to Grimsby, and all the way back down again to Boulogne.
“The reason for that is that the haulage companies have to have the goods inspected by a veterinarian and the trucks sealed.”
Inspecting and sealing the trucks is a new post-Brexit requirement.
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A container cannot be opened after being sealed until it has arrived at its destination.
Ms Hill continued: “It takes the trucks about six hours to get to Glasgow, but the drivers can’t get back within their operating hours.
“That doubles the cost of the driver hours, it doubles the cost of fuel, we’ve got the added cost of a health certificate at £50, we’ve got the cost of doing the export declaration, which is a flat fee plus a percentage of the total value of the consignment.
“I would think our costs are about 20 percent higher.”
Her profit margins are further eroded when simple admin errors result in whole consignments of lobsters getting rejected by customs officials.
She explained: “In the last few weeks, we’ve had two or three loads that have been stopped, and sometimes we can just miss a tiny thing on the paperwork and that’s why it gets stopped.
“This could be that the health authorities have signed it with the wrong coloured ink.”
The show’s presenter, Harry Wallop, asked: “So the wrong colour ink can stop a containment worth tens of thousands of pounds getting through?” to which Ms Hill replied: “Yes.”
The Lobster Pot has continued to export to the EU, and their sales remain strong.
But in order to mitigate the new costs, they have had to lay off a quarter of their staff.
Early in 2021, another Welsh shellfish wholesaler admitted she was worried about the future of her business.
This was after nearly £50,000 of lobsters, prawns and crabs were delayed for more than 30 hours on a lorry to Spain.
Nerys Edwards and her family before her have been sending live shellfish from Pembrokeshires every week.
But because of the new border rules, her business became severely affected.
While the shellfish industry in Wales is to Spanish customer not large, it is an important part of many communities.
It is worth an estimated £13.3million, while the mussel industry boosts the Welsh economy by an additional £10.7million
Before the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement came into effect, 90 percent of Welsh shellfish was being exported to the EU.
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