BREXIT is bringing a “slow-motion car crash” for Scottish firms with no sign of an early end to red tape wrangles ahead while some European hauliers are now boycotting Britain, say haulage and food industry leaders.
In day two of our special series, the Business of Brexit, it is revealed the food processing and production sector faces separate border bureaucracy around rules of origin issues, and also the view in Europe, with many hauliers opting against travelling to the UK.
Hauliers and food industry representatives have called for a concerted effort by the UK Government, France and the European Union to use a “lighter touch” and ease the restricted flow of freight.
In response to concerns raised, the UK Government said it has hired 900 more officers to man the border, with 1100 border staff set to be recruited by March and that it has “safeguarded the flow of critical goods, such as vaccines and vital medicines”.
David Thomson, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation Scotland, said red tape stretches far from the border with France. “There is a specific issue that we have found which is not just about exports at the border, it is about importing and then re-exporting,” he said.
Jamie McMillan from Loch Fyne Langoustines says businesses are in jeopardy. Queues at Dover and strict checks, and tied-up fishing boats in Tarbert. Pictures: Getty Images/PA
Pinch points centre around the complexity of identifying processing and the tracking of ingredients. “The simple example is if Sainsbury’s bought a whole ham from Italy into the UK, sliced and packaged it, and wanted to send that to Northern Ireland or Republic of Ireland, they would not be allowed to do that, it would be illegal.”
He also said: “There are issues about your commodity codes, your paperwork, whether that’s accepted in France or in the Netherlands, and whether the systems speak to each other is a more slow-motion car crash at the same time that you are seeing the headlines about the seafood sector.”
Martin Reid, of the Road Haulage Association, said long-standing supply chains are under threat on both sides of the English Channel.
“European hauliers don’t want to come to the UK now at all,” he said. “We are seeing that reflected in the rates. European hauliers get paid per kilometre. We are seeing now that what used to be €1.50 per kilometre they are now asking €10-12 per kilometre, because there’s no guarantee that they’ll get the driver back and are mitigating the risk by charging, and that is those that are prepared to come.
“There are so many more others that are just not prepared to come.”
Brexit: Scottish seafood exports lost daily worth £1m amid checkpoint ‘chaos’
German logistics company DB Schenker is the latest to suspend new consignments to the UK, citing “enormous bureaucratic regulations”.
Mr Reid also said: “There are goods that should be in the supply chain but that are not being moved because the supermarkets and the big retailers are not confident that they are ready to do it, that they’ve got the necessary requirements and that they’ll get to their final destination.
“There are so many stranded goods just now it is creating a false position at the ports.” He also said the Scottish seafood industry is in “purgatory” because of its need to deliver fresh produce to Europe in a short space of time.
Brian Donnelly: So, Brexit wreaks havoc and exports are halted
Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said some catch prices on the market in Scotland have been reduced by up to 60 per cent. “We have had some processors in the north-east who have incurred six-figure losses, we have some vessels in our fleet, even some small vessels, losing tens of thousands of pounds over the last two weeks,” she said.
Fishing boats are tied up at Tarbert Harbour. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).
One, Jamie McMillan, of Loch Fyne Langoustines, warned that fishermen would dump rotten produce at the UK Parliament if action is not taken to help get their fish to market.
He said: “It’s £1,000 a week we are losing and we can’t continue to lose that. We ent stuff to Europe last week that took five days to arrive. It arrived dead and rotten and we lost that product.
“We are in the second week now, and we can’t sell to our biggest market which is the EU.”
John Davidson, of Scotland Food and Drink, said: “We need the UK Government and French Government and EU to be a bit more pragmatic and take a lighter touch to enforcement.” The UK Government said it is “aware there have been some issues” adding “disruption at the border has so far been minimal and goods have been flowing efficiently”.
A senior Conservative MP was criticised after saying fish in British waters are “better and happier” after Brexit during the height of an exporting crisis.
Unsold fish are rotting on docks, seafood companies are hitting the wall, but Jacob Rees-Mogg says what matters is that fish are now ‘happier’ because they’re ‘British’ pic.twitter.com/NGjWT4mXag
— Toby Earle (@TobyonTV) January 14, 2021
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons Leader, responding to concerns from the SNP, told MPs said: “What is happening is that the Government is tackling this issue, dealing with it as quickly as possible, and the key thing is we’ve got our fish back.
“They’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it.”
SNP MP Tommy Sheppard labelled the crisis the “Brexit fishing disaster” and asked for a debate on compensation for the Scottish fishing industry.
He said: “Boats confined to harbour, lorry loads of seafood destroyed, the industry losing £1 million a day as firms go bust – all as a result of Brexit red tape imposed by this Government.”
Tomorrow in Part Three: Left out of the deal: Brexit’s impact on key services sector.