Squabbling over whether to use red or blue ink on post-Brexit customs forms is among the problems plaguing exporters who are facing a “whack-a-mole” situation, a Scottish trade body has warned.
Brexit means Brexit
Scotland Food and Drink chief executive James Withers told MSPs the sector has faced approximately £1m in lost sales every day during “an absolutely dreadful first few weeks of trading in this post-Brexit world”.
Among the “catalogue of problems that have just been racking up day by day” since the implementation of the Brexit trade deal, Withers revealed there was an “ongoing debate about whether forms should be filled in in red ink or blue ink”.
Giving evidence to Holyrood’s Europe Committee, he explained:
You think you get the right colour of ink and you’re told that the signature needs to be in a different colour to the colour that the letterhead is on. Part of the challenge here – particularly the other side of the channel – is you’ve got a lot of young, inexperienced customs agents.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
You can get a view on colour on one particular day, but then the shift changes the next day in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Calais or Dunkirk, and you get a different kind of interpretation.
It’s extremely difficult for businesses to plan and that’s why this hasn’t just been an issue for small businesses; even big multinational companies who have got export departments, who have got export paperwork in their DNA because they sell into North America and China, have found the system’s fallen down and loads are getting held up.
Withers also cited IT system failures affecting the UK and French governments, and warned that the situation was likely to get worse before it gets better.
The problems are multiple and at no one point, so it’s very difficult to target the solution very quickly at one thing. It’s like whack-a-mole: a problem crops up, you hit it on the head and fix it and then another two crop up at the same time.
Devastating evidence today from @NFUStweets& @scotfoodjames to @SP_European. Brexit bureaucracy has caused massive fall in volume of meat exports to EU, huge increase paper work. Goods held up because ink on paperwork the wrong colour! #brexit Watch here https://t.co/DksytYaZwW
— Joan McAlpine (@JoanMcAlpine) February 4, 2021
The meat of the problem
Charlie Adam, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in Scotland, also revealed exports of meat are currently down to 25% of the normal volume. Discussing the possibility of the sector returning to levels of business before Brexit and the pandemic, he said:
I’m hearing that that is something that may never happen because for some of the smaller producers, they simply mean give up trying or they may lose their markets.
I think it’s important to emphasise all this that whereas we may be told that these are teething troubles, or that they’re down to Covid-19, it is simply is not the case.
This is about serious structural issues and problems that need to be addressed. I would also say that it’s about urgency.
Brexit may have sent shockwaves through the food and drink industry, but once again, we have shown our unparalleled resilience.
— scotfooddrink (@scotfooddrink) February 3, 2021
The UK Government are saying that ‘you know these things will be addressed and there are changes due to come in April’, but that’s too late. If people have lost that business in the meantime, they may not get it back – people will go to other suppliers and once you lose that business is very hard to get it back.
There does seem to be a lack of urgency, coming from Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) and the UK Government on this.
I don’t think we’ve been shy in saying that, we just need to apply the pressure.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?