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City firms revealed in the final months of 2020 that they planned to shift nearly £100bn in assets to the EU, taking the total value of assets lost to the bloc since the Brexit vote to £1.3 trillion, according to a new survey.
The data from consulting group EY pointed to a last-minute push by firms before 31 December after the UK-EU trade deal did not offer concessions for the UK’s dominant financial services sector. It forced companies to move staff and assets to the continent in order to continue serving EU customers.
According to EY’s latest Brexit tracker, which covered the period from October 2020 to February, firms have shifted or declared plans to move approximately £500bn worth of those assets in the last two years alone.
Goldman Sachs was among them, having shifted around $40bn-$60bn (£29bn-£43bn) worth of assets to its Frankfurt operations at the end of 2020.
It has also emerged that JP Morgan Chase was planning to relocate €200bn (£173bn) worth of assets to Germany as part of its own Brexit preparations. It is understood that process is still going on.
London was dealt a blow last month after separate data showed Amsterdam had overtaken the UK capital as Europe’s largest share trading centre. That was due to EU rules that require shares traded in euros to be traded on EU exchanges or in countries with special “equivalence” status – which has not been granted to Britain.
However, the EY survey showed that the rate of increase of job moves slowed, with the total number of employees shifted abroad rising to nearly 7,600 from 7,500 in October.
Experts believe there will continue to be a slow trickle of business shifting overseas, even as UK and EU negotiators reportedly near an agreement on how they plan to share information about financial market rules. That agreement is seen to be a precursor to negotiations for market access for the financial services sector.
Omar Ali, a managing partner covering financial services at EY, said: “Financial services firms across Europe have a number of chapters still to write before they can close the book on Brexit.
“After the major hurdle of standing up new EU hubs, the days of significant swathes of asset and job relocation announcements appear to have passed and will likely be replaced by the slower yet ongoing movement of people and assets to Europe for compliance purposes.”
Boris Johnson ‘sacrificed fishing industry’ says June Mummery
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Despite landing record hauls, many are struggling to survive because the price of fish has plummeted by a third. They say that firms in France, Spain and Italy are refusing to pay top whack because Brexit red tape means the fish aren’t as fresh.
This has caused one fisherman to reveal that the value of their catch tumbled from an expected £26,000 to just £16,000 last week.
Fisherman Luke Selvey recently returned to Brixham harbour in Devon aboard beam trawler Emilia Jayne.
Mr Selvey said: “We’ve got cuttlefish, Dover sole, brill, turbot, monks … all sorts.
“The fishing is the best we’ve seen for years.
Boris Johnson is under pressure to stand up for British fisherman (Image: Express)
Mr Johnson says he wants to rectify any delays (Image: Getty)
“The problem we’ve got is that the price of the fish is terrible. It’s making things really, really difficult for us. We’re having to work much harder to try to make a buck.”
Speaking to the Guardian, he added: “It means we’re going out in all conditions for maybe half the wages we were making last year.
“But we have families to look after, mortgages to pay, boats to be paid for.
“I shouldn’t be out there in southerly gales but my family needs to be fed, watered and clothed.
The EU has banned member states from important unprocessed shellfish (Image: Getty)
“The fleet as a whole has caught more fish this year but the money is probably down by a third. It’s depressing.”
Almost three-quarters of the fish landed at the historic Devon port are exported to mainland Europe.
This was seamless for years until EU bureaucrats caused consignments being delayed or rejected.
Emilia Jayne’s owner Mike Sharp said: “This boat made £16,000 last week. For the amount of fish it had caught it should have been £25,000 or £26,000.”
The main catch at this time of year is cuttlefish, the vast majority of which ends up in mainland Europe.
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The spat has meant that lots of shellfish hasn’t been export to mainland Europe (Image: Getty)
Usually it would fetch about £4.50 a kg but this year the price has been as low as £1.80.
Dover sole has dropped from about £15 to £7, and plaice from £3 to £1.10.
All in all, Mr Sharp believes his business is down a third from where he was this time last year.
He said: “Everyone is paddling around trying to make money.”
“This is the time of year you make your money. It’s always a bit leaner in April and May when the fish are breeding.
Many British fishermen are suffering despite landing record catches (Image: Getty)
“Now is when we need to make money to survive. Exporting is a nightmare. The Government has called it teething problems but it’s not that.
“It’s disheartening to be working the same hours or more, catching the same fish and getting a third of the return.”
Fish merchant Ian Perkes has described trying to export to the EU as “horrendous”.
He revealed his sales for January 2020 were £375,000. This January they were down to £74,000.
He said: “I’ve built this business up over 44 years. But we wonder now how long we can go on before pulling the plug.”
Mr Perkes reeled off examples of consignments being rejected or delayed.
British fishermen have been landing record catches (Image: Express)
He heard that one trucker had to relabel thousands of boxes of frozen fish because they were marked as being from the UK rather than Great Britain.
A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the issues businesses involved in the export of highly perishable fresh and live seafood are facing, and as such are working closely with the fishing industry and authorities in EU member states to ensure that goods can continue to flow smoothly to market.
“We recently announced that the £23m fisheries support fund is being expanded to offer support to a wider range of businesses. We will be offering funding to help fishermen meet their fixed costs as businesses adjust to the new arrangements.”
The Government said it was holding weekly meetings with industry groups and working with Dutch, French and Irish officials to resolve issues with documentation.
Since the final Brexit deadline on December 31, businesses across the UK have had to quickly become familiar with the new trade deal and adapt their supply chain accordingly.
Unsurprisingly, this has not been without disruption.
With a shortage of trucks and hauliers available to transport goods across the border and gaps in understanding of the new legislation across the supply chain, the first two months following Brexit have proven incredibly challenging for many British businesses.
At Origin, we import some of the parts used to manufacture our aluminium doors and windows from the EU, so access to these materials was our primary concern following the announcement of the deal. Like many businesses, we had plans in place for a host of possible scenarios in anticipation of this, many of which have proven invaluable in the months following the deadline.
However, as Covid-19 taught us in 2020, it’s impossible to prepare for all eventualities, and we have found ourselves having to quickly pivot operations in some areas of the business in order to adapt to the impacts of Brexit that we hadn’t anticipated.
‘The first two months following Brexit have proven incredibly challenging for many British businesses’
Here, I explore some of our key learnings and share my advice for avoiding disruption in your supply chain as businesses across the UK and the EU continue to adjust to the new Brexit rules and regulations.
#1 – Educate yourself and your team
My number one piece of advice to other businesses who import and export to the EU, particularly those that didn’t feel prepared for the deal, is to learn everything there is to know about the new legislation and how it impacts your organisation, as soon as possible. It’s vital to study every element of the deal that could be relevant to your business, from new customs rules, through to your staff’s right to work, and should you employ any EU citizens.
It will be essential that your whole workforce understands the new requirements, so invest in training for the entire team, not just the senior leadership figures who have direct contact with your suppliers. There is plenty of support and advice out there for those who need it, including specialist consultancies and trainers who can coach you and your team to ensure you have the necessary knowledge to navigate international trade moving forwards.
#2 – Coach your suppliers
Once you are armed with the knowledge you need, take responsibility for coaching each of your suppliers to ensure they have an equally good understanding of the new trade rules and what is required of them. This can be easy to overlook when you are focussing on familiarising yourself and your workforce with the new regulations, but it’s vital.
In fact, a lack of understanding about the new legislation amongst our EU suppliers is one of the key challenges that we have faced in the months following Brexit, and one that we had not anticipated. For us, like many businesses, this slowed the process down and exasperated delays that we were already experiencing due to the disruption caused by Brexit.
Working closely with your suppliers to ensure they have a good level of knowledge about the new processes will be effective in protecting your organisation against challenges of this kind. Training should be thorough and cover everything from pallet markings to documentation. Whilst this will require an investment in time and resource in the short-term, it will prove invaluable in preventing damaging delays in your supply chain later down the line.
#3 – Carry out a full supplier audit
If you import from the EU, you can also use the process of coaching your suppliers as an opportunity to carry out a thorough audit of each of the businesses you work with. This will allow you to identify any potential weaknesses that could lead to delays further down the line. Once identified, you can focus on stocking up on the products from those suppliers that you anticipate could cause hold ups in the future to ensure you are protected against this.
#4 – Make contingency plans for transport
In addition to disruption caused by suppliers, an immediate and severe shortage of containers and hauliers in the weeks following the deadline caught many businesses by surprise and caused disruption for thousands of organisations. Whilst this issue is beginning to ease, the availability of transport isn’t yet back to pre-Brexit levels, so it’s important to keep contingency plans in place. For my company Origin, this means being prepared to pay premium rates for transport in the short term if necessary. We have also developed plans to book our own transport, or even hire trucks and send our own team across the border, should this be required.
#5 – Stockpile materials
The experiences of the pandemic taught us a valuable lesson in the importance of stockpiling raw materials in order to weather Brexit disruption in the supply chain and be able to continue to deliver to our customers on time and in full. This was a practice that we continued in the face of Brexit uncertainty. For Origin, our primary objective is always to support our customers, so they never miss an install day and this investment in additional stock proved vital in allowing us to do this during the first few tumultuous weeks following the Brexit deadline.
While the initial delays caused by Brexit may be easing, a huge amount of uncertainty remains for those importing and exporting from the EU, as Covid-19 travel restrictions and vaccine disparities remain in place. It will be important for all businesses to maintain a buffer of stock for some time if they are able to. Of course, there are some businesses that this doesn’t apply to, such as fashion brands whose stock becomes obsolete quickly. However, for those businesses that have a stable range of products and the funds available, there is no better way to invest right now than by creating a buffer of stock that can act as a safety net for future unanticipated challenges.
Daniel Baker is managing director at Origin, a manufacturer of aluminium doors and windows