British exporters are appalled by the UK’s decision to postpone new customs rules for imports from the European Union. On the European side, the additional controls already apply to goods from the United Kingdom, which means that they are talking about unfair competition.
“I respond with absolute dismay,” says Steve Howell, who sells British ham and sausages to hotels and resorts in the EU with his company Foodlynx. “I cannot believe they are stupid enough to kill British exports while giving the EU a free hand.”
Initially, from April, British customs would ask for more paperwork when importing food products such as milk and meat from the European Union due to brexit. From July onwards, loads should also be physically inspected.
This week, British Brexit minister Michael Gove announced the postponement of these additional checks by six months. He wants to give companies the opportunity to recover from the coronavirus crisis. Boris Johnson’s government also feared that barriers at the border would cause shortages just at the time of the easing of lockdowns.
Concerns are growing in British business. For example, Richard Burnett, the head of the British Road Transport Industry Association, warned that the British are weakening their negotiating position in trying to get the EU to move towards smoother border controls.
The UK refrigerated food transport federation states that the current situation creates a “perpetual unfairness” between UK companies and EU member states.
“It is not clear how this action encourages the EU to engage in discussions on removing barriers.”
A survey by the UK manufacturing lobby group MakeUK found that three quarters of companies in that sector suffer from border delays with EU member states. Half of the 213 companies surveyed had higher costs as a result.
In January, when the transition phase after Brexit was over, UK exports to the EU fell by 40.6% compared to December. Imports from the EU fell by 28.8 percent, the British National Statistical Office announced.
Former Brexit negotiator David Frost, who is now a member of government, hurried to nuance these figures via Twitter. They can give a distorted picture, he said, because in the autumn of 2020 large stocks had already been built on both sides of the canal in case of a no-deal Brexit.