Meanwhile, UK exporters have had to face new trade barriers. In some cases, orders were slowed down by paperwork; in others, the fresh produce did not reach its destination on time, forcing it to be destroyed. All of this is a direct result of the UK’s political decision to leave the EU’s single market and customs union.
Under these circumstances, a government is expected to do everything in its power to help struggling businesses. However, critics fear the Johnson administration has buried its head in the sand: the Prime Minister has called the difficulties “start-up problems”.
“Only a few of the problems we are seeing right now could be legitimately described as ‘startup problems’,” says Adam Marshall, director of the British Chambers of Commerce. “Yes, some companies are facing adjustments … But others see their business model completely disrupted and their ability to negotiate successfully is compromised.”
Last weekend, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he understood some companies were struggling with the sudden change, but “if you take a 10-year view … the opportunities growth in the future will come from emerging and developing economies around the world. ”
Which is not very comforting for companies that export fresh produce, such as the fishing industry in Scotland. “For many companies, doing business with the EU now looks like a high risk, long odds bet,” says James Withers, managing director of Scotland Food and Drink, a lobby group. “The trading system is more expensive, complex, slower and unreliable. For our European customers who need guarantees of products like salmon arriving at a certain time, reliability is paramount.”
Far from being start-up problems, the slower and less reliable trading systems that Withers describes are the result of new red tape on things like customs, proof of a product’s origin, and sanitary standards. In the case of companies importing parts from Europe before exporting a finished product, the proper paperwork is required at every step of the supply chain, leaving UK exporters at the mercy of European companies, who are familiar with also with new complex processes.
“Even though the impact of FTAs is usually analyzed over a period of time, for a government minister to say that we should look at the impact of this agreement in 10 years when people lose their jobs and money is a loss. Little deaf that it was up to the government to provide advice to enable businesses to prepare, ”says Anna Jerzewska, founder of Trade and Borders, a consultancy that assists exporters and importers across Europe.
While the current situation looks dire, some believe it will get worse. Withers points out that controls on EU food imports are expected to start in April and stocks are running out. And when European hotel businesses come out of lockdown, demand for food and drink will pick up. “If we can’t provide them, our competitors will.”
So far, these changes have mostly affected those looking to export goods. However, there are also major concerns about the long-term impact Johnson’s hard Brexit will have on the UK service sector.
“When we come out of lockdown and UK actors, musicians and people providing professional services start looking for jobs in Europe, they will be introduced to a world of European visas, work permits and embassies that they do not have. ‘had never had to worry before, ”Lowe says.
One of the biggest fears of a hard Brexit was the impact it would have on the City of London, the world-class financial center that has been the envy of Europe for decades. Although London has not seen the job leak many predicted, billions of euros in stock deals have moved to Amsterdam from London since January 1. but if this trend continues, it could undermine Britain’s status as Europe’s financial capital and impact future foreign investment.
It was long known that financial services were not going to be covered by the trade agreement. In some ways, this has made life easier for financial businesses. “Because it’s a highly regulated industry, there hasn’t been too much disruption or job loss,” Lowe says. However, he believes the impact could come down the line later. “If you are looking to easily sell new financial services across Europe in the future, where do you fit yourself: Amsterdam or London? The answer is not as clear as it once was. ”
Many analysts believed the original trade deal would ease the path to some sort of future financial services pact, but with the UK government optimistic about the merits of its deal and Brussels making rumors about taking the business from London, the things do not look promising. .
“There could be closer cooperation, but I doubt it at the moment. What is more worrying is government gas. They don’t admit there is a problem; they play it down; they say wait 10 years. Which one is it? Is everything okay or do we have to wait 10 years? And what are people who are in pain now supposed to do during that time? “says Anand Menon, professor of European politics at King’s College London.
Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, declined to answer questions from lawmakers about their concerns about the deal, while the government says it has no plans to release an impact study.
Others are pessimistic about the long term and are unsure whether the government is in the dark or denying how bad things could turn out. “It is quite possible that in 10 years the UK will have turned to exporting beyond Europe,” says Simon Usherwood, professor of politics at the University of Surrey. “I am concerned that this is part of an overall reduction in trade, which means a smaller economy and, ultimately, job losses.”
Alastair Campbell, who was former prime minister Tony Blair’s communications director, is less charitable. “It makes my blood boil. I think they’re in denial because they can’t handle the consequences of their policies. They’re beating up some of our biggest industries and trying to distract everyone by choosing fake fighting and starting cultural wars. ”
It will all become very uncomfortable. Several lawmakers, including those from Johnson’s own party, told CNN they still receive numerous emails from voters facing problems. However, where they initially sought advice, many are now simply expressing their frustrations.
“They know we can’t do anything in a lot of cases. Government websites are not very useful and they just don’t get the help they need, ”said a government lawmaker. “It’s difficult. They are angry that people are canceling orders and that I personally cannot get a French visa for them,” they add.
A government spokesperson told CNN it is “committed to ensuring that businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe and seize new opportunities as we strike trade deals with the world’s fastest growing markets “.
Authorities operated export hotlines, held webinars and offered the support of advisers, the spokesperson said, adding that a fund of $ 20 million ($ 28 million) to help small businesses to adapt had also been created.
But back in Cornwall, Andy Trust doesn’t see much hope for the future. “The British public will never eat enough fish to make up for the loss of European affairs. For every man at sea, another 20 jobs depend on them on land. Boris Johnson hopes to invest millions in fishing over the next five years. In five years he may have destroyed the whole industry. ”
Of course, the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy with many talents working in the logistics sector. It is quite possible that the situation will improve. However, for that to happen, Boris Johnson and his cabinet will need to convince their detractors that they are operating in the realms of reality.
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