FOR more than 20 years, Ton Llado has been importing Scotch whisky to Barcelona as part of his specialist wine merchant business.
Now he says it is like the bottles are coming from a “different planet”, thanks to increased bureaucracy and costs post-Brexit.
While big firms have the expertise to deal with customs arrangements, small distillers and suppliers say they are bearing the brunt of difficulties and disruption.
Llado is chief executive of Vins Noe, which works with an independent malt whisky bottler in Glasgow.
He said: “We are in the specialised segment of wine merchants, so we have customers for highly specialised whiskies. The bureaucracy has increased a lot and is adding costs to all the trade.”
The additional steps he now has to take include filling in documents to take the goods from Scotland, and then to bring the whisky into Spain.
“The same bottle I was importing in December now it seems to be a completely different product,” Llado said. “It is like a product coming from another planet. It is the same product but it is being treated differently.”
Llado said importing a pallet of 600 bottles of whisky could now cost as much as an extra euro per bottle adding up to around 15-18% rise in costs.
The price rise is passed onto the shops and businesses that buy the product, which ultimately means more cost for the consumer.
Living in Catalonia, Llado said he understands the desire for independence – but is baffled at the decision to leave the EU.
“It takes more time, it takes more people intervening in the process,” he said.
“You have to hire a customs agent and even the hauliers have increased their prices.
“Now to bring an order from Scotland to Barcelona is much more expensive than it was before Brexit.
“So, everything is going against the rationale of economics.
“The question is who benefits from the bureaucracy? It is certainly not consumers, not entrepreneurs, not companies.”
Alan Powell of the British Distillers Alliance said Brexit has brought disruption for smaller producers in the UK, who may only be sending single pallets of whisky or gin abroad.
While distillers used to be able to export anywhere in the EU under one system – known as the Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) – he said Brexit now means there is a “triple or quadruple” administrative handling of goods.
“It’s difficult for smaller businesses – the big companies are okay, they have got full-time staff, experienced customs people to get to grips with it,” Powell said.
“It is really SMEs that have got the difficulties – they are not used to it.
“Similarly, those in the EU aren’t necessarily used to dealing with what used to be straightforward movements.
“They are not used to dealing with the additional administration – that is the cause of the problem.”
Powell said additional costs included an export declaration of around £40 and an import declaration costing around £40 to £75, while registration to move excise goods could cost another £25.
“It is causing difficulties in sales, it is causing difficulties in ability to supply markets, and it causes extra cost,” he said. “Regardless of whether or not people get used to this, you are going to get these extra costs as well. And some people are saying is it worth doing it?”
A report from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre last week highlighted the increasing costs Scots are facing when buying from the EU due to customs tax.
One example given was a men’s blazer costing £350 from an Italian website – but once customs duty, VAT and other charges were added, the total was almost £480.
SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said the report showed the cost of Brexit is starting to “bite” for families and businesses as the consequences of the “hard” Tory deal with the EU now come to light.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “Our distilleries are world-renowned, and we are working closely with the industry to help them take advantage of new export markets.
“We continue to promote UK food and drink exports around the world, and we are confident the sector is well-positioned to benefit from the expansive trade deals that we are now striking.”