A Welsh wine wholesaler who called Britain the “crackpot aunty” of the world has moved to France to ensure he can keep prices affordable for customers. Daniel Lambert, whose business is based in Bridgend, moved to Montpellier with his wife and two teenage daughters on Thursday and says he’s received messages from thousands of others who have done the same.
Daniel, whose business has been based in Wales for 30 years and supplies 300 independent retailers as well as chains such as Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, said it was no longer financially viable to remain in the UK due to the administration costs of importing and exporting wine across the Channel. He says the move will save the company the ongoing costs of paperwork for each consignment, which pushes prices up “dramatically” for the average shopper.
Prior to Brexit transporting wine across the Channel was much simpler, but now there is complex administration involved in the importation and exportation processes. Every consignment – of which there are 361 in the wine category alone – must be transported with papers providing exact information such as a commodity code, origin, and destination. The work is long and costly, and many companies feel they have no choice but to pay brokers to do it for them.
Daniel Lambert Wines imports more than two million bottles a year. He said the costs of administration as well as fees from hauliers had coincided to present the company with significant challenges.
Before Brexit he said it cost the business £165 to £185 to import a pallet of wine from France to Wales – purely logistical costs. But now he says that figure is £285 for logistics as well as the additional new administration costs which can be hundreds of pounds per consignment.
Hours before boarding his flight to Montpellier from Cardiff on Thursday, Daniel told WalesOnline: “When you import wine to the UK from the European Union (EU) now you have to fill in various forms on both sides of the Channel. The brokers that have been created in the UK since Brexit happened charge a fee for that service, and those fees vary dramatically.
“There are a range of fees you need to pay – anywhere from £25 to £175 per consignment, and that fee is payable on both sides of the Channel – so it’s doubled up. You’re looking at £325 if you haven’t got the facilities to do your own administration in house, which most don’t have.”
Daniel said many logistics firms have been deterred from the industry, with only a handful left, allowing brokers to push up prices. He already saves on costs by doing his own administration for imports into the UK, but says his costs and prices are still impacted because he has no base on the other side of the Channel. The only way he can avoid high administration costs to import the wine is to set up his own “physical entity” inside the EU to send wine to the UK, and do the paperwork himself.
“We can’t escape Brexit – it’s impossible, but the word I use is mitigate,” he said. “And the only way I can mitigate the costs of red tape is to set up a physical entity within the EU itself and try to access the system so that the company can do its own administration with a partner company in the UK, and that’s what we are going to do.
“It’s costing the consumer 80 pence more per bottle and the retailer £1.50 more a bottle – sometimes £2 more. That’s the real impact of Brexit on businesses and people. For companies in the UK prices have to increase dramatically.”
On his Twitter page on Thursday morning, which has now amassed 18.4K followers, Daniel tweeted: “Today’s the day. Bye bye UK. I hope you’re feeling better soon. Hello sunny south of France.” He added: “It’s eye-opening just how many people have messaged me saying they have left the UK in the last five years due to Brexit. There really is a sizable brain drain going on and it is mostly unreported. Incredible.”
He said he’d received messages from 2,000 expats living in Europe who had also moved for financial reasons. “The reaction has amazed me to be honest,” he said. “People have told me they’ve moved and haven’t looked back. I didn’t want to do this, I honestly think it’s a very sad state of affairs.
“I’m exceptionally worried for the future of the industry in the UK. We are not the envy of the world anymore, we are the crackpot aunty in the corner that everyone laughs at.
“I know that because I work globally and speak to people from 11 different countries, and not once have I heard someone tell me they think the UK leaving the customs union and the single market was a good idea. Isn’t that telling?” To stay updated with things like the impact of Brexit and the cost of living on Wales, sign up to our Wales Matters newsletter here.
With a company in France he will soon be able to get a French economic operators registration (EORI) to export wine to Britain. He says it will give his company a “competitive edge”.
“We will have a competitive edge as others might not have the ability, or more important the nationality, to do what we’re able to do,” he said. “I have two passports and I’m a French national, so I can do this relatively easily. It’s actually because of Brexit that others aren’t able to do what I’m doing, and that’s a great shame.
“It’s incredible that dual nationals in the UK have more rights and more power than straight British people. That’s the perverse thing about Brexit, most people in my position now in the UK do not have freedom of movement to get away from it.”
Daniel assured that jobs at the Bridgend site will be secure. “The company is an established 30-year business, but obviously by moving part of it to France some of our taxation and profitability will be moving with it, and so we will be diluting partly in the UK,” he added.
“This isn’t what I’ve wanted to do, I hasten to add. But to hold our prices in the UK it’s the right and proper thing to do.”