North-east businesses say they are still facing massive price hikes and huge delays as a result of Brexit red tape – despite the leader of the House of Commons describing it as a “great success”.
Nearly eight months on from the UK’s departure from the European Union, many companies are still facing problems when trying to transport goods abroad.
Issues include mounting paperwork, items taking weeks to clear customs and the cost of transport “three or four times” more expensive than before Brexit – if haulage firms are willing to carry goods across borders at all.
For some, the problems have got to such an extent that they will now no longer send items directly to customers in the EU.
Adam Elmegirab, the founder of gin company House of Botanicals, exports his products to several EU countries including France, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Cyprus.
The firm now only sells its products to wholesalers in Europe, who then sell them on on their behalf.
‘Easier to sell to China than France’
Adam raised the issue of one shipment, which left the UK in mid-April, not being delivered to its final destination in France until June – a trip he says previously would have taken “two or three days”.
Now he says he will have to consider relocating the business to the EU unless the situation improves.
“We have been exporting globally since 2009, and before Brexit we could send a bottle of gin to Europe as easily as sending it to one of our neighbours,” Adam said.
“Now it’s easier to send goods to China than France or Germany. It is just bonkers.
“Big companies are moving over to Europe, and if things keep going as they are and we lose substantial sums of money we will have to look at doing the same.
“As much as we sell in the UK, there is a much bigger trading block in the EU which we are now struggling to access.
“A big part of our market is European and that has slowed down massively. It’s harder for us to get deals with wholesalers and it’s harder for them to buy our goods.
“For businesses who are already dealing with a pandemic it is ridiculous this was pushed through at the same time.”
Businesses being ‘hammered’
Stephen Flynn, the MP for Aberdeen South, raised House of Botanicals’ plight in parliament and urged UK ministers to “get round the table” with EU leaders to find a solution.
The SNP MP, who has previously slammed comments made by other Conservative politicians on Brexit, said companies in the north-east were being “hammered” as a result of the exit from the EU.
“In order to grow, local businesses need reliable exports to Europe which can be timed in days not weeks, and certainly into months – but the Tories have put their obsession with Brexit before the needs of business,” he said.
“Neither Aberdeen, nor Scotland, voted for this mess yet it is our businesses who are having to pay the price.”
‘French have habit of being difficult’
Despite the plight of businesses, House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the government’s stance on Brexit – insisting it had been a “great success” in response to Mr Flynn.
Mr Rees-Mogg refused to take responsibility for the problems faced by businesses since January 1, when the UK officially left the union.
And the Tory MP, a leading figure in the campaign to leave the EU, suggested House of Botanicals should take their issue to the French authorities who he claimed have a habit of being “difficult”.
“Brexit has already proved to be a great success,” he said.
“We are already doing extremely well by not being tied in, for example, the European Medicines Agency, which the opposition would have liked which would have prevented us getting our vaccines safely.
“Businesses have to meet the requirements of foreign governments. If the French have decided they want to be difficult, which is not an unprecedented habit of the French, then that is a matter he should take up with the Auld Alliance.”