Jacob Rees-Mogg, the newly appointed minister for Brexit opportunities, had only been in the job a few hours before the first of a volley of slings and arrows appeared in his in-tray, suggesting that these opportunities may be thin on the ground.
Brexit is adding costs to business
A report from the public accounts committee published on Wednesday 9 February showed clearly that EU exit has had an impact on trade volumes, and that “new border arrangements have added costs to business”.
The committee’s chair, Dame Meg Hillier MP, said:
“One of the great promises of Brexit was freeing British businesses to give them the headroom to maximise their productivity and contribution to the economy – even more desperately needed now on the long road to recovery from the pandemic. Yet the only detectable impact so far is increased costs, paperwork and border delays.”
Daniel Lambert of Lambert wines has been equally vocal about the impacts on his wine importing business, saying that it is now faced with the largest threat to its future since it began in 1992. Yesterday he took to Twitter to dispel the myth that the government has made importation easier.
“Pre-Brexit (for wine imports) you required and Vat/EORI number and access to U.K. EMCS. That was it if you did it all in house and both were/are free to use.
“Post Brexit requirements,VAT/EORI number, U.K. EMCS, RORO licence, CHIEF/CDS access, haulier with GVMS access, & if you want to control your declarations both import and export fully, GBWK number, GBRC numbers. Your also need a full time employee trained to use all of this.”
We never had it so good
Is Brexit working?No, not according to Lambert. For him, his business has gone from free-to-use and hassle-free importation, to an additional expense of £50,000 a year just to maintain the status quo. Just-in-time delivery is out the window – now he plans his shipment four months in advance.
It must make it even harder then for Lambert to hear Tory MPs like Natalie Elphicke, who claimed during this week’s PMQs that Dover traffic jams are “not because of Brexit, but because of Brussels bureaucracy and red tape”. Really, you couldn’t make it up. Even weirder is that according to those importers at the coalface like Lambert, for all those years we were in the EU, there was never any red tape.
The delays at the Port of Dover are well documented, and other ports are not escaping problems either. Freight that is shipped between Hull and Rotterdam is now taking twice as long to clear as it did before new Brexit checks. Rather than decreasing, the amount of red tape at our borders is growing by the day. This rather flies in the face of the claim that Brexit would reduce bureaucracy.
Rees-Mogg seeks help in finding any Brexit opportunities
The normally Tory-supporting Express wrote on Wednesday about the ongoing crisis at the ports, claiming that “red tape caused by Brexit is harming Britain’s trade with the EU as the increased border checks that have been in place since the start of the year are hiking business costs and diminishing trade with the EU”.
Undeterred, Rees-Mogg took to the Sun newspaper to extoll the virtues of the UK leaving the EU. He urged readers to write to him:
“You are the ones who know the red tape binds your hands, and to do my job I need your wisdom … write to me with the regulations you want abolished – those which make life harder for small businesses, which shut out competition, or simply increase the cost of operating.”
Maybe Sun readers are in fact major importers and exporters and this plea to its readers will elicit some wise advice. In the meantime, he would do well to take on board some comments from industry experts after the recent publication of the Benefits of Brexit document was published.
Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, told the Independent that it was hard to take the document seriously adding, “It’s just backward-looking self-justification. Stuff like saying they will at some undefined point in the future ‘digitise export health certificates’ as a Brexit divided is just trolling”.
Of course, there are some winners. The Financial Times recently reported how Liverpool, the UK’s fifth-biggest container port, is one of the early winners, having gained traffic from its congested southern rivals. And those who work in the professional services that support the additional paperwork are having a field day.
Statistics demonstrate the negative impact of Brexit
The Office for National Statistics report published yesterday suggests we are still a long way off from a Brexit bonus. The report monitors economic challenges on UK business based on a fortnightly business survey. It found amongst other things:
- In late January, the transportation and storage industry reported the lowest percentage of businesses currently fully trading, at 64 percent.
- Approximately a third (31 percent) of all businesses currently trading reported that their turnover in the last two weeks had decreased compared with normal expectations for this time of year, with the accommodation and food service activities industry reporting the highest at 63 percent.
- Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of currently trading import businesses with ten or more employees reported they had experienced a challenge while importing in the last month; for exporting, this figure was 67 percent.
Write to Jacob Rees-Mogg
Still, we now have a Cabinet minister in charge of these things, so prepare for the worst and hope for the best. In the meantime, let’s do as the good man asks and write to him. He wants to know what we think and it would be churlish not to.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA