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For some Scottish seafood companies, Brexit may be a death knell



London-Trucks traveling south from Oban, Scotland are loaded with tons of live crabs, lobsters and prawns, and must reach their destination in Spain within 72 hours to ensure that the cargo can survive the journey.

However, as the UK implements new post-Brexit trade rules, for Paul Knight, managing director of PDK Shellfish, the routine journey of the past has now become a high stakes.

Mr. Knight said as he waved two giant trucks: “It’s like a roulette.” He added that although he spent tens of thousands of pounds in preparations for Brexit, he still felt scared because of the French port The detention may cause most of its cargo to flow to the UK. perish.

He said: “We have prepared as much as possible for Brexit, and we are still facing failure.”

He added: “I’m exhausted, the pressure is so great, it’s like being held down by a knife.”

Since the United Kingdom completed the final stage of Brexit on January 1 and left the European Union’s single market and customs union, the world of British exporters to the European continent has changed, and the changes have not been smooth.

Although the United Kingdom and the European Union reached a trade agreement on Christmas Eve, the promise made by Brexit activists that leaving the European Union will save companies from unnecessary bureaucracy now sounds like a joke . Goods that used to be moved with minimal hassle now require a lot of paperwork, including customs declaration forms and, for food, 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 EU member Ireland.

These complications pose a particular threat to Scottish seafood exporters because they say that there is no similar domestic demand, so many of them rely on the European market.

Before dispatching trucks to load live crabs, Colin Anderson and three colleagues spent a whole day completing new paperwork. Even so, he is still struggling to obtain the last documents needed to ship more than three tons of crabs to the Netherlands.

Mr. Anderson, managing director of The Crab Company (Scotland) based in Peterhead, said: “We consider ourselves the most important, but we still don’t have all the documents.” Consignment.

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the trade organization Scottish Seafood Association, said the new system was “red tape festival.” He added, “There are too many certificates required, even if they are not a clerical error, even if they are not 100% aligned, the system will reject it.”

For companies that have been freed from the coronavirus and the decline in demand in the hotel industry, for new companies, the arrival of new trade rules is understandable.

Lochfyne Langoustines and Lochfyne Seafarms said in a video posted on Twitter that their stocks are stagnant in ports, exports to the European continent have become impossible, and the company may be forced to close business.

It said: “Welcome to Brexit and the chaotic world it brings.” “It is incredible that we find ourselves in this position.”

Victoria Leigh-Pearson, the sales director of Aberdeen smoked salmon producer John Ross Jr., said that the French customs authorities refused to load the entire truck without any explanation.

She wrote in a letter to the government: “It feels as if our own government threw us into the cold Atlantic waters without wearing a life jacket.”

Donna Fordyce, chief executive of another trade organization, Scottish Seafood, said in a statement that these changes have unleashed layers of administrative problems, leading to delays, border rejections and chaos.

Ms. Verdes said: “These companies do not ship toilet paper or small items.” “They export the most perishable and highest quality seafood, with limited time to market during peak periods.”

Mr. Buchan of the Scottish Seafood Association said that customers rejected some goods, which sometimes lose value due to the increase in transit time.

Buchan said: “I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes the death knell for some companies.” “Some people lost tens of thousands of pounds, and in some cases hundreds of thousands of pounds.”

Today, exporting fish to France is not a simple bureaucracy, but a 25-step process. In addition to the customs declaration, each batch of fish and seafood requires a health certificate after inspection.

At the port, traffic still flows freely throughout the strait, but this is partly because the stranded material is elsewhere.

DFDS is at the heart of shipping Scottish fish to the French market. It is a Danish logistics company that also operates ferry services. It has been inspected in Larkhall, near Glasgow, and shipped seafood to the port, then to the port, and then to the continent.

However, integration with government tax and customs systems has not gone smoothly, which has forced the company to implement slower manual solutions. In Larkhall, there are delays in the issuance of health certificates, while exporters fail to send correct written documents and delay other delays.

“Our people who were supposed to enter the information were overwhelmed by the delay.” DFDS CEO Torben Carlsen said.

Therefore, the company currently does not accept new orders from smaller companies, which must group their goods in a truck with many different documents.

Because each shipment requires correct certification, any problem will stop the entire truck.

“We have been very strict,” Mr. Carlson said. “So I believe that everyone else can ensure that if you do not have paperwork, you cannot enter the port. Because if you do, you will not be able to move, and then you will face greater operational and supply chain problems.”

As for additional costs, the Scottish government estimates that new delays at the border each year for British businesses, including new customs procedures, are expected to reach 7 billion pounds, or about 9.5 billion US dollars.

Many Scottish exporters were dissatisfied. Although the British decided to ferry on many European trucks for a few months after the entanglement was resolved in the entire system, France established new rules from the first day.

They hope that the government will negotiate with the French authorities to make concessions. Opinion polls show that most people support Scottish independence. Problems in the seafood industry may exacerbate resentment in London. The majority of Scots who voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum wanted to stay in the EU, but the number of voters in the UK and Wales surpassed them.

Although the system may become more efficient in the coming months as the troubles are gradually eliminated, since Britain has left the EU’s customs union and single market, its bureaucracy is unlikely to decrease.

Inevitably, this means that although the government has urged companies to expand their horizons and look for non-European markets, the government still requires exporters to add millions of forms, and has warned them for months to prepare for the terms of trade after Brexit.

But for Mr. Knight from Auburn, there is no preparatory work to ensure that his highly perishable products may stay on the production line, lagging several hours behind other vehicles waiting for inspection by French ports.

He said that French officials are doing their best, and his two trucks have succeeded. But they travel during the holidays, where traffic is unusually low and the situation is bound to change.

Mr. Knight said that in the UK he has almost no high-quality shellfish market, and the only way he can keep the company running is to continue to gamble with cross-channel export trade, even if the odds are against him.

He said: “At some point, we will hit the wrong key on the computer, or the date of some documents is wrong.” “It’s not whether they want to catch up with me, but when.”


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