The Daily Mail published a story yesterday about a freight forwarder in Liverpool, citing it as a Brexit ‘success’ story after the company “increased its European ‘operations’ five-fold”. However, it may not be all it seems and perhaps best serves to demonstrate the ignorance and the degree to which the newspaper continues to misunderstand the EU and the single market.
The directors of Brunswick International Freight Terminal mentioned in the report are Fred Connolly and Steve Crane. They, or the newspaper on their behalf, claim to have “increased their operations in Europe ‘five-fold’ since Brexit” as part of a “surge in demand from growing numbers of domestic and international clients”.
It sounds impressive, doesn’t it? It is, but only in the way the Daily Mail, unwittingly or not, is able to gaslight its readers.
A Brexit ‘success’ story?
A recent briefing paper by Dr Anna Jerzewska published on the UK Trade Policy Observatory blog seems to reinforce the claims of a surge in demand by saying, “The customs brokerage sector has experienced unapparelled demand”.
However, it does not mean an increase in trade although Daily Mail readers may have been misled into thinking it does. It is neither good news, nor a sign that Brexit is somehow a runaway success story. In fact, quite the opposite. It shows the utter failure of Brexit. Trade with the EU has actually fallen considerably in the first few months of 2021.
“The new customs and regulatory border impacted UK companies as it became more difficult and more expensive [our emphasis] to trade with the EU. Various studies have attempted to estimate this impact. While it is still early days, UKTPO analysis of the evidence from the first three months of 2021 suggests that UK exports to the EU have reduced by 15% and imports by 32% during that period. The Centre for European Reform estimated that leaving the European single market and customs union has reduced UK trade in goods by £10 billion or 13.5% in May 2021. These are significant changes.”Dr Anna Jerzewska
Customs brokerage and freight forwarding is, according to her briefing paper, part of the “very small proportion of companies that were able to benefit from Brexit”.
Freight forwarders are one of the few to benefit from Brexit
Brunswick International Freight Terminal is benefitting from some of the extra £7.0bn that British exporters will needlessly now have to pay to get their goods into the EU. It is a costly expense that their single market competitors do not have. Up to the end of the transition period last January, an exporter just needed a transport company; now they need an army of customs brokers and freight forwarders to fill in all the Brexit paperwork.
The ‘surge in demand’ is actually for the red tape that Brexit and the government’s EU trade deal now demand from exporters.
If these freight forwarders were civil servants, the Daily Mail would describe them as useless, unnecessary, pen-pushing form fillers, filching money out of the taxpayer. But in the private sector these pointless jobs are seen as a benefit to be welcomed.
Who is Brunswick International?
The company involved is Brunswick International Freight Terminal which the Daily Mail tells its readers is “one of the biggest import and export firms in the U.K.”
However, you won’t find Brunswick International listed at Companies House, at least not under that name. Connolly and Crane are actually directors of New Starr Ltd, trading as Brunswick International Freight Terminal.
The Mail story says:
“Brunswick International have operated in the shipping industry for more than two decades throughout their time working from Liverpool Docks before they expanded operations to Salford to cope with soaring demand after Brexit came to pass.
“They also opened a new £2million HQ and customs bond facility after reporting extra demand for its services, moving from their Kirkdale HQ on Merseyside this year to open a new 50,000sq ft warehouse in Hunts Cross.
“Yearly the warehouse and logistics company now deals with around 20,000 containers, making the company one of the biggest import and export firms in the UK.”
The report says Brunswick employs 47 staff. Yorkshire Bylines has no reason to doubt the accuracy of any of the figures in the article, or to suggest that Brunswick is anything other than a perfectly good business doing a first-rate job. However, the last published accounts from March 2020 say the company averaged just 6 employees through 2019 and 2020 and had fixed assets with a net book value at the time of £20,500, including a motor vehicle worth £1,792.
Perhaps we all need to start worrying more than we have been, if this is the best the Daily Mail can come up with to show what a great idea Brexit was.
Yorkshire Bylines is always interested in Brexit-related stories to include in our Digby-Jones Index or Davis Downside Dossier, but we do tend to be suspicious of reports that appear to buck the trend, as we have seen from the Daily Mail in the past.