LONDON – Loaded with tons of live crabs, lobsters and prawns, trucks heading south from the Scottish town of Oban had to reach their destination in Spain within 72 hours to ensure the cargo survived the journey.
But with Britain enforcing new post-Brexit trade rules, a journey that It used to be routine now it’s a high risk gamble for exporter Paul Knight, Managing Director of PDK Shellfish.
“It’s like roulette “Knight said, as he laid off two giant trucks, adding that although he spent tens of thousands of pounds preparing for Brexit, he remained fearful that delays at the Gallic ports would cause much of his shipment to perish.
Since Brexit, France accepts Scottish seafood only after a 25-step process. Photo: Andy Buchanan / Agence France-Presse – Getty Images.
“We are as prepared for Brexit as we can be and we continue to face failure,” he said.
“I’m exhausted, the pressure is so intense – it’s like being on the edge of a knife,” he added.
Since Britain completed the final stage of Brexit on January 1 and left the single market and the customs union of the European Union, the world has changed for those who export to the continent, and not for good.
Despite a trade deal, reached by Britain and the EU on Christmas Eve, promises once made by Brexiters that leaving the bloc would free companies from unnecessary red tape now they sound like a macabre joke.
Shipments that used to move with minimal problems now they need bulky paperwork which includes customs declarations and, for food products, health certificates.
Some British companies have suspended sales to continental Europe and even Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom although it now has a special customs status due to its land border with Ireland, a member state of the European Union.
Complications pose a threat to Scottish seafood exporterss, many of which depend on the European market because, they say, there is no similar demand at home.
Jimmy Buchan, executive director of the Scottish Seafood Association, a trade organization, called the new system “crazy bureaucracy.” They require, he added, “so many certificates, and if they’re not all 100 percent aligned, even if it’s a clerical error, the system rejects it.”
For companies already hurting by the coronavirus and collapsing demand from the hospitality sector, the new rules have added to their concerns.
Buchan said customers were rejecting some shipments and that passing products sometimes lost value due to additional travel times.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the coup de grace for some companiesBuchan said. “Some are losing tens of thousands of pounds, and in some cases they are in the hundreds of thousands.”
Exporting fish to France is now a 25-step process. In addition to customs declarations, each shipment of fish and shellfish requires a sanitary certification after inspection.
In ports, traffic continues to flow freely through the Canal, but that is partly because the delays occur elsewhere.
In terms of additional costs, the Scottish Government estimates that further delays at the border, including new customs formalities, are anticipated to amount to £ 7 billion annually, about 9.5 billion dollars, for British companies.
Many Scottish exporters want the government to negotiate concessions with the French authorities, and with opinion polls showing majority support for Scottish independence, problems in the seafood industry are likely add to the resentment towards London.
© 2021 The New York Times