MEMBERS of Parliament have called for urgent action to remove export barriers four months into the disastrous hard Brexit engineered and executed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his associates.
The MPs wrote that “businesses exporting seafood and meat to the European Union have faced substantial new red tape requirements and checks at the border, known as non-tariff barriers, where previously there were none”.
It is lamentable that the border records system is not digitised, and that the wrong colour of ink on a form could lead to problems of the kind that end with full shipments being lost.
The Brexit Impact Report came from the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, and it stated that despite having some knowledge Brexit was coming, the Government’s guidance was “not sufficiently timely, targeted or joined-up”. Six of the cross-party committee’s 11 members are Tories, incidentally.
The committee is calling for urgent action to level the playing field for seafood producers, pave the way for logistics groupage and digitise systems including around the resource-consuming Export Health Certificate to replace the current “archaic” system.
Loyalists clash with police on Lanark Way as they restart their protests against the Irish sea border and the NI Protocol on April 19, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Loyalist tension has grown in the province following Brexit and the implementation of the NI Protocol, leading to violent clashes with police and nationalists in recent weeks.
The MPs found “there was also a lack of testing of the new arrangements, which meant that minor issues, such as the particular colour of ink used to stamp and sign EHCs, created delays at the EU border”.
It says: “Many of these ‘teething problems’ are now being resolved but the new non-tariff barriers introduced by Brexit continue to hinder businesses, in particular SMEs, exporting seafood and meat to the EU.”
The report goes on: “Without action some businesses will relocate activity to the EU or stop exporting to Europe.”
James Withers, of industry body Scotland Food and Drink, said of most significance is the recommendation that the UK Government should pursue a veterinary deal with the EU which would remove the need for many border inspections, and paperwork such as the health certificates.
“The reality is that for the vast majority of seafood, meat and other food and drink exporters, doing business with their European customers has become more costly, complex, slower and high-risk,” he said.
In Scotland, economics heavyweight the Fraser of Allander Institute warned of the “long-term impact” of Brexit in the business monitor it publishes with law firm Addleshaw Goddard. Nearly two-thirds of Scottish businesses that deal with the EU already have negative or “very negative” impacts.
As Royal Bank of Scotland owner NatWest booked a first-quarter profit of £946 million, it also underlined its inclination to shift its HQ from Edinburgh to London should Scotland gain independence. It means a change of registered address and not a shift of operations, but the statement that the bank’s balance sheet would be “too big” for an independent Scotland inspired discourse.
Also this week, “the immediate reaction included astonishment, dismay, mockery, and plenty of jokes, many of which it has to be said were very funny indeed”, Business Editor Ian McConnell writes. It was the name change of the venerable Standard Life Aberdeen to Abrdn, which came complete with pronunciation guide.