UK

Fishermen blast post-Brexit ‘brick wall of bureaucracy’ that is seeing British fish left to rot

Michael Gove warned businesses to expect weeks of ‘significant additional disruption’ at UK borders as a result of Brexit customs changes today amid industry fury.  

The Cabinet minister spoke out as firms complained of a ‘perfect storm’ of post-Brexit changes hitting business from supermarkets to fishermen.

Parcel courier DPD UK said it was pausing its road delivery services into Europe, including Ireland, until at least Wednesday, citing issues resulting from the EU-UK trade deal agreed last month, which came into effect on December 31.

And retailers warned that a new wave of red tape and tariffs was hitting trade.  The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that ‘at least 50’ of its members face potential tariffs for re-exporting goods following the agreement of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA). 

Marks and Spencer boss Steve Rowe also warned that, despite the UK signing a free trade agreement with the EU, new rules and regulations are set to ‘significantly impact’ its overseas ventures in Ireland, the Czech Republic and France, although he insisted the company is ‘actively working to mitigate’ the issues.

Meanwhile UK fishermen lasted out, saying British-landed fish are being left to rot because of a post-Brexit ‘brick wall of bureaucracy in French ports.   

Some consignments have been delayed for up to 48 hours, meaning they run the risk of being rejected the other end for a lack of freshness.   

Speaking to broadcasters this afternoon, Mr Gove said: ‘So far disruption at the border hasn’t been too profound but it is the case that in the weeks ahead we expect that there will be significant additional disruption, particularly on the Dover-Calais route.

‘It is our responsibility in Government to make sure that business is as ready as possible, and hauliers and traders have already done a lot but we have to redouble our efforts to communicate the precise paperwork that is required in order to make sure that trade can flow freely.

‘So over the course of the next few days, Government will be stepping up that communications effort to make sure that business knows what is required.’

The Cabinet minister spoke out as firms complained of a ‘perfect storm’ of post-Brexit changes hitting business from supermarkets to fishermen

DPD UK said today it was pausing its road delivery services into Europe, including Ireland, until at least Wednesday, citing issues resulting from the EU-UK trade deal agreed last month, which came into effect on December 31

DPD UK said today it was pausing its road delivery services into Europe, including Ireland, until at least Wednesday, citing issues resulting from the EU-UK trade deal agreed last month, which came into effect on December 31

Some consignments have been delayed for up to 48 hours, meaning they run the risk of being rejected the other end for a lack of freshness

Some consignments have been delayed for up to 48 hours, meaning they run the risk of being rejected the other end for a lack of freshness

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that 'at least 50' of its members face potential tariffs for re-exporting goods following the agreement of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA)

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that ‘at least 50’ of its members face potential tariffs for re-exporting goods following the agreement of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA)

Lorries arrive at the Port of Dover in Kent a week from the introduction of post-Brexit rules

Lorries arrive at the Port of Dover in Kent a week from the introduction of post-Brexit rules

There were lorry queues in Dover as trucks queued up to get across the border to go to France

There were lorry queues in Dover as trucks queued up to get across the border to go to France

Announcing its decision to halt deliveries today, DPD said: ‘The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement resulted in more complex processes, and additional customs data requirements for parcels destined for Europe. This, along with delays and congestion at UK ports for Channel crossings, has placed extra pressure on our turnaround and transit times.

‘We are seeing up to 20 per cent of parcels with incorrect or incomplete data attached, resulting in these parcels needing to be returned to customers, so that the required data can be provided.

‘In view of this unprecedented set of circumstances we believe that it is only right to pause and review our road service into Europe, including the Republic of Ireland. During this time, we will work with our customers to validate and correct the data we have in our system, to reduce the delays and enable us to resume normal service.

‘This pause in our operation will be as short as possible and we intend to recommence this service on Wednesday January 13.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said ‘busy times’ may return to UK borders as firms get to grips with new paperwork after the exit from the EU single market.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The Cabinet Office is working very closely with businesses. It’s not the case that goods are stopping flowing.

A police officer waits to check the COVID-19 test results of drivers as lorries arrive in Dover

A police officer waits to check the COVID-19 test results of drivers as lorries arrive in Dover

Lorries arrive at the Port of Dover in Kent one week on from the introduction of post-Brexit regulations.

The queues snake back on the raod

There were a number of lorries seen queuing as the new checks came in this week

‘I was studying, as I do by the hour at the moment, the flow at Kent and it’s been picking up every single day of this year so far and you’re seeing goods crossing the short straits and flowing perfectly smoothly.’

But he was pressed on whether pressures at the border will build because currently firms are avoiding it.

Mr Shapps said: ‘It’s been a quieter start to the year, a lot of that’s to do with anticipations, so the stockpiling that’s going on.’

He added that the chaos seen last month while the post-Brexit transition period was still in place was due to the French closing the border because of concerns over the UK strain of coronavirus and was ‘nothing to do with the change of paperwork’.

‘We may well see busy times again but actually at the moment the border is in fact flowing and it’s flowing very smoothly,’ he said.

Labour accused the Government of failing to properly prepare for the end of the transition period on December 31.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: ‘The Government promised it had a plan to make sure things ran smoothly for businesses and hauliers post-Brexit.

‘It’s clear the problems caused by its poor preparation and delaying tactics have not gone away. Ministers have to get a grip on this and make sure essential workers are actually able to do their jobs, or we risk seeing a repeat of the chaos on our roads at Christmas.’

Fashion retailers and grocery chains have been particularly impacted by new tariff rules on re-exporting goods from the UK bases.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that ‘at least 50’ of its members face potential tariffs for re-exporting goods following the agreement of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said 'busy times' may return to UK borders as firms get to grips with new paperwork after the exit from the EU single market.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said ‘busy times’ may return to UK borders as firms get to grips with new paperwork after the exit from the EU single market.

‘We appreciate that the rules of origin in the TCA were designed to be facilitative on trade in goods, but we need a solution which genuinely reflects the needs of UK-EU supply and distribution chains for goods,’ said William Bain, trade policy adviser at the BRC.

‘We are working with members on short-term options and are seeking dialogue with the Government and the EU on longer-term solutions to mitigate the effects of new tariffs.’

Following the agreement of the withdrawal deal, a raft of retailers including John Lewis and TKMaxx suspended deliveries into Northern Ireland amid uncertainty over new Irish Sea trading arrangements.

Separately, Marks & Spencer is also struggling with filling shelves in its stores in the Republic of Ireland.

The retailer launched a new distribution centre in Motherwell exclusively to deal with supplying products to the island of Ireland, rather than from a warehouse that previously supplied Ireland and Britain.

But seven days into the new arrangements between the EU and UK, the centre is said to be struggling to cope with the new rules.

Marks and Spencer boss Steve Rowe also warned that, despite the UK signing a free trade agreement with the EU, new rules and regulations are set to 'significantly impact' its overseas ventures in Ireland, the Czech Republic and France, although he insisted the company is 'actively working to mitigate' the issues

Marks and Spencer boss Steve Rowe also warned that, despite the UK signing a free trade agreement with the EU, new rules and regulations are set to ‘significantly impact’ its overseas ventures in Ireland, the Czech Republic and France, although he insisted the company is ‘actively working to mitigate’ the issues

Sources close to the retailer insist the issues are only temporary as the company get to grips with the new systems and paperwork.

One problem for M&S is that many of its products sold in Ireland are sourced in the UK and tend to be ready meals or prepared dishes, requiring separate paperwork for meats, dairy and vegetables.

A typical M&S dish contains all three and is therefore facing more lengthy paperwork, whilst reports also suggest delays continue at ports.

An M&S spokesperson said: ‘Following the UK’s recent departure from the EU, we are transitioning to new processes and it is taking a little longer for some of our products to reach our stores.

‘We’re working closely with our partners and suppliers to ensure customers can continue to enjoy the same great range of products.’

And in a broadside at new rules on fish, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said: ‘Despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU reached on Christmas Eve, there is mounting concern over the export of fish to Europe, centering on obstacles in Calais and Boulogne. 

‘The first consignments of the year from Cornwall hit a brick wall of bureaucracy, and similar problems are being faced in relation to prawns exported from North Shields and with direct landings into Holland.  

‘At the time of writing one consignment of fish had been delayed 48 hours with attendant loss of quality. 

There were fears that the customer would reject the whole consignment on arrival. 

‘Buyers are warning vessels that purchases at first sale markets will soon be impacted if clear export routes across the narrow straits, compliant with the new customs regime cannot be quickly established.’ 

In a broadside at new rules on fish, the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations said: 'Despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU reached on Christmas Eve, there is mounting concern over the export of fish to Europe, centering on obstacles in Calais and Boulogne (pictured)'

In a broadside at new rules on fish, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations said: ‘Despite the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and the EU reached on Christmas Eve, there is mounting concern over the export of fish to Europe, centering on obstacles in Calais and Boulogne (pictured)’

Donna Fordyce, chief executive at Seafood Scotland, said exporters had been hit by a ‘perfect storm’ of bureaucracy, IT problems and confusion.

She said: ‘The last 48 hours has really delivered what was expected – new bureaucratic non-tariff barriers, and no one body with the tools to be able to fix the situation.

‘It’s a perfect storm for Scottish seafood exporters. Weakened by Covid-19, and the closure of the French border before Christmas, the end of the Brexit transition period has unleashed layer upon layer of administrative problems, resulting in queues, border refusals and utter confusion.

‘IT problems in France meant consignments were diverted from Boulogne sur Mer to Dunkirk, which was unprepared as it wasn’t supposed to be at the export front line. There have also been HMRC IT issues on the UK side that need to resolved ASAP regarding certification.

‘A lack of knowledge and understanding of the required paperwork means some companies are ill prepared for the new checks, which are taking far longer because of the mistakes being uncovered. When the systems settle down, checks should be carried out on samples from each load but now entire consignments are having to be checked to satisfy requirements.’


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